Discover the ThinkTank Changing Scientometrics in Africa
By Cyril D. Boateng, PhD
Aymen Idris wants the whole world to know what is happening in science in Africa – from the Scientometric perspective. What about you? Are you curious? Our Managing Editor, Cyril D. Boateng interviews the Founder and Chairman of the ThinkTank changing scientometrics in Africa. Africa In Science (AiS) was launched in January 2021. It is an online platform and Think Tank that tracks, monitors and evaluates the scientific research output of academic and research institutes in Africa. The aim is to use a data-driven, evidence-based mechanism to better understand how societal, economic and education sectors impact the scientific output and merit of research in Africa. AiS has the huge ambition, to focus the attention of the international community on scientific research progress in Africa, and in the words of its founder “provide the World and especially local populations and researchers with a mirror that reflects the significant impact of education, human development and socio-economic status on scientific research in Africa – at least from a scientometric perspective“. Let us learn more about AiS inspiration, vision and mission from its Founder, Aymen Idris.
Question 1: Who is Aymen Idris and how did you get the idea to start Africa in Science?
I am a researcher, scientometric enthusiast and proud African and Londoner born to African parents. The Africa in Science initiative was inspired by a 2016 article published in the scientific journal Nature that described the “science-led recovery” of Rwanda from “killing fields to Technopolis”. Inspired by the excellent writing and detailed coverage of such an interesting topic, I started my quest of mining – to little or no avail – public resources and databases in search of raw, Africa-centric scientometric data that shows the impact of human development, education and societal and economic status on the scientific output of universities and research institutes in Rwanda and in Africa in general.
“We, at AiS, aim to increase visibility and impact of science in Africa by using data-driven mechanisms that track, monitor, evaluate and rationalise the numbers behind the recent scientistic research progress, … and in the process mentor the next generation of leaders in science in the continent.”
Question 2: Is the finished product, what you envisaged for Africa In Science?
Today, I am super proud to present to you and AfroScience Network, AiS: the website, database and ThinkTank. Powered by our Africa-centric database, the website at www.africainscience.org tracks, evaluates and visualizes the output and quality of the scientific output of Africa-based universities and research institutes, and provides our unique blend of Africa-centric scientometric analysis highlighting the impact of education, human development and socio-economic status on scientific research in Africa. Our unique metrics, in the shape of AiS badge and AiS index (or AiSi for short), present and attempt to a certain extent to rationalize the link between scientific research output from specific countries in Africa and educational, human development and socioeconomic status. AiS scientometric analysis and unique metrics draw on a wide range of international, independent, well-trusted public sources and scientific databases that include the World Bank, United Nation bodies and Medline, to name a few. We are currently holding talks with representatives of other data sources and online hubs, including AfroScience Network, of course.
Moving forward, we are currently working hard on developing the ThinkTank arm of our initiative. AiS ThinkTank aspires to be an Africa-centric, independent research institute, with the ambition to utilize our finely-curated, Africa-centric database to conduct data-driven, evidence-based research and to publish free-to-access infographics, peer-reviewed scientific journals and bespoke scientific reports and research reviews. Most importantly, though, we will achieve this goal in collaboration with (and while mentoring) early- and mid-career professionals of African heritage in and outside Africa, that is our promise to Africa.
Question 3: What problem does Africa In Science solve and what makes your solution unique?
Allocation of funding and resources is vital to scientific advances, most notably in developing countries. I believe that the time is ripe for research into issues and diseases that originate and affect African populations to be conducted by or in very close collaboration with local and regional institutes and universities. In the past 20 years that I have been in science as student, postdoc and faculty member, I have watched the number of scholarly articles published by Africa-based researchers rise dramatically. However – unlike in other regions of the world such as South America and Asia, for instance – the scientific output of universities and research institutes in Africa has received little attention from a Scientometric perspective.
Now, I – as founder, Chairman and data scientist at AiS – sincerely hope, pray and do my utmost best to ensure that our small initiative, with a big ambition, will focus the attention of the international scientific community on Africa, and provide the World as well as local populations and researchers with a mirror that reflects the significant impact of education, human development and socio-economic status on scientific research in Africa – at least from a scientometric perspective.
“It is important for the readers of AfroScience Network to know that AiS database is only populated by research articles that are officially affiliated with a university in Africa.”
I believe what makes AiS unique and in a good position to tackle this challenge is our well-curated, Africa-centric database that powers the website and provides our ThinkTank with valuable information. AiS database is only populated by research articles, for example, that are officially affiliated with a university in Africa. This simple, yet unique, scientometric approach allows AiS to perform a targeted data-driven analysis that informs organisations, funding bodies, business leaders and philanthropists in Africa and around the globe about the scientific output and merit of research by Africa-based institutes. Thus, aiding efficient allocation of future subsidies and investment in science in Africa.
Question 4: What has been the process for building Africa In Science? How challenging has it been?
I am proud that I have been part of our dynamic, international, multi-disciplinary, multi-cultural team that brings together over 50 years’ worth of combined experience in the fields of data science and analytic, basic and clinical research, law, economic, software development and cloud-based, database engineering. Putting together and virtually working with and leading such a team has been challenging, but having a unique blend of experiences and expertise has ensured the successful delivery of AiS project on time, in spite of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
“One important goal of the AiS initiative is to mentor the next generation of leaders in science in Africa.”
Question 5: What future do you envisage for Africa in Science?
Now that we have successfully launched Africa In Science, our immediate goal is to seek out, identify and recruit to the AiS team early-and mid-career, researchers, scientists and professionals based in Africa or its diaspora with special interest in what we do. This approach would fulfil one of the most important goals of AiS, which is mentoring the next generation of leaders in science in Africa.
Such an approach that engages a blend of intergenerational talents would accelerate the cause of our new, small initiative with a BIG ambition and serve as an inspiration to carry out independent Africa-centric scientometric analysis, publish scientific infographics, reports and peer-reviewed papers and share these publications with our community in and outside Africa.
Our ever-expanding team of software developers and cloud-based engineers will continue to expand our unique Africa-centric database through collaborations with a plethora of local and international public bodies and organisations. We will also engage local and global communities with what we do through the publication of AiS lectures and bitesize video series that promote knowledge and collaboration between scientists in Africa and around the globe, and build partnerships with initiatives such as AfroScience Network and others.
Are you still curious for more? Go to Africa In Science and subscribe to their newsletter and follow them on all social media channels.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and they do not purport to reflect the policies, opinions, or views of the AfroScience Network platform.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cyril is a research scientist and science communicator. He holds a PhD in Geophysics and is the founder and Managing Editor of AfroScience Network. Cyril is passionate about STEM education, training scientists and communicating science to the general public.
This article has not been submitted, published or featured in any formal publications, including books, journals, newspapers, magazines or websites.