Linking Up Africa’s Scientists

Being a chemist in Africa can be isolating at times: Your chemical brethren are scattered far and wide, travel to international conferences is costly, and scientific literature can be expensive to access. To help decrease scientific isolation on the continent, the U.K.’s Royal Society of Chemistry made all of its journal content free last year to scientists at African universities (C&EN, May 15, 2006, page 44). More than 30,000 RSC articles have been downloaded in Kenya alone since the program’s launch, Alejandra Palermo of RSC told me last night. The archive’s popularity “reflects the continent’s strong demand for scientific knowledge,” she added.

RSCRSC hopes the brand-new Pan Africa Chemistry Network will build on the archive’s success. The program aims to promote science and research throughout Africa by catalyzing connections between scientists, researchers, schools, and libraries across the continent. Agro giant Syngenta has committed approximately $2 million over the next five years to help fund the program.

One of the program’s first initiatives is to distribute 16,000 new undergraduate textbooks to universities in Ethiopia and Kenya. Future initiatives will be guided by local needs but are likely to include additional support for science education at all levels, funding for intra-African conferences and symposia, and travel and training grants.

Shem O. Wandiga of Kenya’s Center for Science & Technology Innovations is a part of the Africa-based committee that will help the Pan Africa Chemistry Network select projects to fund. He told me this morning that he welcomes the program as “a catalyst to help African scientists strengthen their capacities and capabilities.”

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