Reform science academies to benefit young scientists

John Kabasa

The nature of science academies in Africa as exclusive clubs for old scientists came under fire at the RISE conference.

John Kabasa, director of the African Natural Products Network, one of RISE’s networks, who is based at Makerere University in Uganda, wants science academies in Africa to be reformed to include young, brilliant scientists.  This, he believes, will rid the academies of their image as an old scientists’ club.

He added that, right now, there was a need to use the social network of old scientists to mobilise critical resources and support struggling, upcoming scientists.

Kabasa said, in light of the brain drain that has severely affected Africa, the few scientists that have remained in the academies must act as a magnet to young scientists and make them stay on the continent.

“We cry about an ageing population of scientists, yet we are reluctant to offer smooth transition of young brilliant scientists. If the academies cannot change, young scientists have to reorganise themselves as a recognisable national body and promote the interests of science,” said Kabasa.

Earlier, Orlando Quilambo, the president of the Academy of Sciences of Mozambique and the academic vice rector at Eduardo Mondlane University, had told me that their academy had tried to be inclusive by attracting young meritable scientists, boosting the membership of  their two year old academy to 100.

They have also created a ‘council of elders’, old experienced scientists within the academy who can guide and inspire young scientists.

Pakistan’s early-career scientists (aged 40 years and under) launched a national academy in February this year to share research findings, and address concerns such as a lack of career opportunities and brain drain.

“Let’s see what is good from their ideas and improve on it,” said Kabasa.

Munyaradzi Makoni is a freelance journalist

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