Investigators Identified in Survey Barriers Holding Back Young African Scientists

It has been observed that young scientists in Africa are not doing as well as their peers elsewhere. A Global State of Young Scientists (GloSYS) survey has identified some challenges that are responsible for this.

Scientist

Scientist

Young African scientists are confronted with serious challenges that often make them emigrate out of their countries. Some even abandon academia altogether. These outcomes cost the continent people who could help it to develop.

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Estimates have it that 20,000 highly-trained professionals leave Africa each year. Scientists account for up to about 30 percent of these people.

Early findings in the GloSYS survey for Africa have identified several factors that keep young scientists from reaching their full potential. Among these are a lack of funding and inadequate mentoring.

GloSYS is a brainchild of the Global Young Academy, an organization of 200 brilliant young scientists and more than 200 alumni representing 83 countries. The project not only seeks to identify challenges but also to develop ways of addressing them.

Revealing barriers

The GloSYS African project combined an online survey and thorough interviews to get a deep understanding of young scientists’ situations. Investigators were interested in learning about the participants’ motivations and ambitions as well as the challenges hindering them.

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This project focused on diverse groups of people so as to capture a wide array of experiences. Participants included people who have earned at least a Master’s degree in the previous 10 years, regardless of current employment status. The project also targeted current Ph.D. students based in Africa as well as African scientists and scholars in the Diaspora.

The research team had a special interest in early-career scientists that were not in academia. They wanted to learn the reasons for not choosing a research career.

Initial findings showed that a lack of mentoring, and inadequate infrastructure were among major barriers to young African scientists. Lack of funding for research and insufficient resources in terms of staff and material also discouraged a career in research.

Furthermore, the team found that young scientists on the continent so much desired further training on grant writing and professional skills.

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These findings were based on responses from over 700 young scientists. Early-career researchers were found to have a lot in common despite varied backgrounds.

Combating challenges

Another thing that the Global Young Academy seeks to do with its GloSYS projects is to develop tactics to deal with barriers. It plans to develop programs to attend to the challenges pinpointed in this African project.

The group will work with government officials in Africa to come up with initiatives that could help address the challenges. It will also be partnering with global funding organizations to tackle the barriers.

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The Africa project was the third GloSYS survey. The first focused on early-career researchers from 14 countries in five continents while the second targeted those in four countries in Southeast Asia.

Those first two studies revealed a strong need for leadership skill training. This made members of the Global Young Academy organize science leadership programs for young scientists in Africa and Asia. The programs were done in conjunction with KnowInnovation and Future Africa.

Training in science leadership skills made a career in academia more attractive to young scientists.

References

What’s stopping young African scientists from achieving their potential

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