Carnegie Corporation of New York is a generous supporter of the Institute for Advanced Study. Vartan Gregorian, its President and an Institute Trustee since 1987, often speaks of the Institute as “a university to universities,” in recognition of its role as one of the world’s leading centers for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. Carnegie Corporation has supported the Institute’s work in the humanities with a recent grant emphasizing collaboration and cross-fertilization between the Schools of Historical Studies and Social Science. It has also funded joint projects with the Institute that aim to have a transformative impact on science and mathematics education in the United States and Africa. Its support of these projects, the Opportunity Equation in the United States and the Regional Initiative in Science and Education (RISE) in Africa, totals more than $13 million since 2007. Article here (top of page 14).
Pelly Malebe's research on helping plants withstand drought is personal as well as scientific. She grew up in South Africa's drought-prone northern province of Limpopo, where crop failures are frequent.
If the affected crop is food for family consumption, the result can be hunger. If it is a crop for trade or export, the loss of earnings can also mean too little food on the family table, as well as threatening commercial farmers, both large and small.
As a [RISE] doctoral student at the University of Pretoria, Malebe is studying the drought-survival mechanisms of tea plants under stress – and has identified a DNA marker for those plants more able to withstand drought. "This can be used to identify suitable drought-tolerant cultivars to benefit the commercial tea industry," she says. Article here.
Economies across Africa have continued to expand this year, attracting increased interest from investors, along with prospects for jobs for the large numbers of unemployed young graduates. Programs that encourage entrepreneurship are proliferating.
Alongside this momentum, there is a growing recognition that institutions of higher education are failing to produce the scientists – and the research – to underpin the creation or expansion of business and industry. The need for African solutions to African problems spurred mathematician Phillip Griffiths to launch the African Regional Initiative in Science and Education (RISE), a project of the Science Initiative Group at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (IAS), New Jersey in the United States. Griffiths, a prize-winning scholar, is a former director of the Institute and was Provost of Duke University.
RISE, funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, a charitable foundation, trains new faculty and supports the research of faculty and graduate students at African universities. Five thematic networks link campuses across regions, sharing strengths and encouraging collaboration. Rachel Jones recently sat down with Phillip Griffiths in Kampala, Uganda, where he was attending a gathering of RISE faculty and students. Article here.
COVAB and the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST) hosted the Regional Initiative in Science and Education (RISE) Annual meeting at Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala on 14th and 15th Oc-tober 2011 under the theme “Integration of Science and Technology Research Net-works in national and regional development through university–led initiatives.” Prof. Lillian T. Ekirikubinza, Makerere University Deputy Vice Chancellor said that Science and Technology rank high in terms of bringing about economic growth in the country and that government should sponsor scientists in Uganda. Artlce here (page 6).
We live in a global knowledge society. Therefore it stands to reason that countries with acute shortages of knowledge workers will find themselves marginalized – and impoverished – in today’s world. Broad comprehensive efforts must be undertaken at both the national and continental levels to improve the conditions of Africa’s universities and research facilities.
Equally important, comparable efforts must be made to curb the ‘brain drain’ phenomenon. This will require dramatic increases in investments in science and technology on the part of Africa’s government as well as such pan-African organizations as the African Union (AU).
External funding can also aid in Africa’s efforts to rebuild its universities and research facilities. For example, the Regional Initiative in Science and Education (RISE), based at the Institute for Advanced Study in the US and supported by Carnegie Corporation of New York, is nurturing African-based research networks for both faculty and students alike in such fields as material science, engineering, biochemistry, natural products, access to safe drinking water and coastal and marine resources.
The chronic under-funding and neglect of African universities has long hampered their ability to serve as cultivators and custodians of bright minds and new knowledge. Over decades of economic hardship and political turbulence, deep dysfunctions crept into university systems, preventing them from equipping people to solve problems, springboard growth and innovation, and contribute meaningfully to the massive outpourings of technological and intellectual innovation that the world has witnessed. Consider, as just one example, that Africa produced about 27,000 scientific papers per year between 1999 and 2008, roughly
Nevertheless, this book is not another catalogue of Africa’s woes. Quite the opposite. For in the midst of all the hardships and challenges, a very different kind of African story has emerged, and that story is the focus of this narrative. It is the story of countries, university campuses, and individuals finding creative ways to surmount grave obstacles and use their ingenuity and determination to develop effective means of teaching, research, and service in difficult environments. Ultimately, this is a story about how society wins when universities and the people within them are allowed to flourish. Publication here.
The Regional Initiative in Science and Education (RISE) is building strong scientific networks in Africa with the aim of helping to train the next generation of academics on the continent.
One of the most critical challenges in science and technology in Africa today is strengthening and replacing the continent's aging population of faculty and researchers. Another critical challenge, which it plans to address in the years ahead, is turning scientific research into products and services that benefit society.
These are the critical missions of RISE – the Regional Initiative in Science and Education. RISE pursues this goal through its support of institutional networks.
The initiative – which is funded by the Carnegie Foundation and administered by the Science Initiative Group (SIG) at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study in the USA – held its annual meeting in Kampala, Uganda, on 14 and 15 October. TWAS was invited to attend the RISE meeting to discuss possible avenues of collaboration. Article here.
The most recent feature in the TWAS 'Excellence in Science: Profiles of Research Institutions in Developing Countries' series is the Institute of Marine Sciences, University of Dar es Salaam (IMS) in Zanzibar. The IMS is one of the nodes in the Western Indian Ocean Regional Initiative, one of five Regional Initiative in Science and Education (RISE) networks.
Written by Alan Anderson, the IMS profile includes information about the IMS' founding and evolution, community involvement, environmental efforts, seaweed and fish research, value addition projects, and international partnerships. Profiles of RISE faculty and students also appear in the publication. Read the IMS feature here.
Engineering postgraduates will be immersed in materials science – sometimes described at the ‘‘science of stuff’’ – at next month’s Pan-African School of Materials (PASMAT).
The school will be held in Nigeria for the first time. It will run for two weeks in September on the campus of the African University of Science and Technology (AUST), located in Abuja.
Wole Soboyejo, who serves on the AUST scientific advisory board, said the school would take in about 20 students from African universities. The deadline for applications has been extended until tomorrow. Article here. (reposted with permission from Research Africa)
For the past five years, winds of change have been blowing through Ugandan science. Funded largely by a US$30-million loan from the World Bank under its Millennium Science Initiative (MSI), a large number of projects have taken place aimed at boosting the country's capacity to use science and technology in agriculture and industry to meet its development needs.
Their diversity is impressive. They range from research on methods for farming the Nile perch and processing bananas — both important sources of protein — to the development of a malaria vaccine, and from renovating facilities for industrial research to funding university research groups, doctoral students and undergraduate courses.
Sadly, the momentum that has built up is now under threat. According to the 2012 budget proposed by the government and passed by parliament in June — and despite invitations from the World Bank — Uganda is not seeking further funds when the current phase of the initiative finishes at the end of this year. Article here.
If postgraduate students at the Pan-African School of Materials (Pasmat) are asked what they're studying this month, they aren't being flippant if their answer is "stuff". That's because the field of materials science is often referred to as "the science of stuff".
Calling it "stuff", however, doesn't mean it's easily - or briefly - defined. An educational kid's site - StrangeMatter puts it this way: "Understanding how [everything you use every day] is put together, how it can be used, how it can be changed and made better to do more amazing things - even creating completely new kinds of stuff: that's what materials science is all about."
Nearly two dozen masters and doctoral students in science and engineering are attending the Pasmat course at the African University of Science and Technology (AUST) in Abuja, Nigeria, through mid-September.
For South African organic chemistry student Adushan Pillay, conducting research for his PhD is like building with Lego children's blocks. "That's what we do at a molecular level," he said. "You can't predict what will work - you build and build, and it's trial and error to figure out what works." Article here.
When Justin Omolo was growing up in Tanzania, he preferred Western medical clinics to African traditional healers. "I was the only one in my family who didn't believe in all the traditional cures," he said. "I guess I wanted proof."
Now this young African organic chemist is looking for that proof as he conducts research for his PhD on plants used by Tanzanian traditional healers to treat HIV.
Omolo's research is supported by the Science Initiative Group (SIG), which aims to foster science in developing countries. Article here.
The United States of America's Regional Initiative in Science and Education (RISE) headed by its Executive Director Ms. Arlen Hastings, and its Program Associate, Ms. Lori Mulcare, visited and met with the University of Botswana (UB) management, staff, and st udents on June 24, 2011. RISE was established in 2008 to prepare PhD and MSc-level scientists and engineers in sub-Saharan Africa through university-based research and training networks in selected disciplines. Its primary emphases are on training new staff to teach in African universities and upgrading the qualifications of current staff, specifically the supervisory capacity through co-supervision of students.
The purpose of the visit by the RISE delegation was to meet representat ives of government ministries of science, higher education and finance (or equivalents), as well as regional organizations. The objectives were to provide information about the work RISE is doing, including its potential to contribute to local economies, to explain the efforts bv RISE to scale up and sustain RISE through the involvement of the World Bank and other partners; and to discuss mechanisms tor support of regional initiatives. Article here.
In economic terms, Uganda is one of the success stories in sub-Saharan Africa. Its GDP has grown at an average rate of more than 7% between 2000 and 2010 and it weathered the recent economic crisis better than many of its neighbours. Likewise, the country's science sector has grown.
Under long-time president Yoweri Museveni, the country has been boosting its spending on R&D, from $73 million in 2005–06 to $155 million in 2008–09, which is close to 1% of the country's GDP.
And in 2006, the country won $30 million in low-interest loans as part of the World Bank's Millennium Science Initiative (MSI). That five-year project, implemented by the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST), paid for the training of 102 scientists and engineers at the master's and doctorate levels. Among the research projects funded by the MSI programme is one at Med Biotech Laboratories in Kampala to develop a malaria vaccine that has undergone successful testing in baboons, says Thomas Egwang, the director of the non-profit lab. Article here.
Alan Anderson is the newest contributing writer for the 'Excellence in Science: Profiles of Research Institutions in Developing Countries' series produced by TWAS. His write-up of the Okavango Research Institute (ORI) in Maun, Botswana is now available here. ORI is one of the nodes in the RISE Sub-Saharan Africa Water Resources Network (SSAWRN).
The profile includes information about the Okavango Delta, local communities there, international programs and linkages at ORI, profiles of key figures at the institute, and ORI future plans. RISE professor Wellington Masamba and four RISE students make an appearance in the publication.
Carnegie Corporation: Study of Botswana's Okavango Wetlands Features Work of Carnegie Corporation-Funded Researchers
A new case study examining Botswana’s Okavango Research Institute (ORI) and its work on wetland systems, focuses on the research of the Institute’s first cohort of graduate students, five of whom are supported by the Regional Initiative in Science and Education (RISE), a program funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York and administered by the Science Initiative Group (SIG) based at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, USA. The case study is jointly published by TWAS, the academy of sciences for the developing world and SIG. Full article here.
Chronicle of Higher Education: African Higher Education in the World - Are They (and We) Ready? by Francisco Marmolejo
Africa is a fascinating and puzzling part of the world...Outfitted with my admittedly limited knowledge of the region, but also an awareness of my shortcomings and a determination to learn, I traveled last week to Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso...
This opportunity was created by an invitation to speak at a regional workshop entitled “Sustainable Financing and Governance of Higher Education Regional Initiatives in Africa.” This workshop brought together key representatives of sub-Saharan African universities, ministries of education, NGOs involved in education, and business sector representatives, as well as representatives of international donor agencies, multilateral organizations and foundations....
Despite many disparities in the region, a consensus –at least among attendees of this seminar- has emerged in recognizing that, in today’s world, a new approach in both talking about and in addressing the necessary modernization of higher education in Africa is required. This represents an important change in approach if we consider that, as expressed by Jamil Salmi, “in the past even the World Bank considered that Africa didn’t need a sophisticated higher education system”. “Not anymore”, he concluded...
In matters related to preparing advanced human capital, desperately needed in the region, programs such as the Regional Initiative in Science and Education (RISE) have finally come up with ways to reduce the risk of brain drain. Keeping in mind that only 30 percent of Africans studying abroad return to the region after graduation, it becomes more effective to develop programs aimed at incentivizing more preparation “at home” as RISE is doing...
Full article here.
The Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) has published a concept note authored by its Working Group on Higher Education, titled "Creating an African Higher Education and Research Space." In the document, RISE is cited as an example of regional centers of excellence built from existing institutions: "A different concept in creating Regional Centres of Excellence is to network existing institutions. For example, the Carnegie Corporation of New York is promoting high quality graduate training in Africa through a programme known as the Regional Initiative for Science and Education (RISE), which was launched in 2007 and which makes use of African universities of proven excellence in specific disciplines as training nodes in a network..." To read the full concept note, click here.
SIG provides an update on the Regional Initiative in Science and Education here.