To Build Scientific Capacity In Africa, Carnegie Corporation Funds Regional Networks To ‘Teach The Teachers’

REGIONAL INITIATIVE IN SCIENCE AND EDUCATION (RISE) TO PREPARE NEXT GENERATION OF AFRICAN SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS.

Underscoring the importance of indigenous science, technology and engineering capacity to the reduction of poverty and to economic and social development in Africa, Vartan Gregorian, President of Carnegie Corporation of New York, today announced the establishment of a regional initiative to help increase the number of well-trained university faculty capable of teaching the next generation of African scientists and engineers.

“We are all acutely aware of Africa’s urgent need to adapt and apply science and technology to alleviate poverty and catalyze economic development,” said Gregorian. “By generating a critical mass of promising, world-class scientists and deploying them to cultivate the fertile minds of students, Africa will be harnessing two resources which it has in great abundance: innovation and determination.”

The Africa Regional Initiative in Science and Education (RISE) will 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 will be on training new faculty to teach in African universities and on upgrading current faculty. With its focus on human capacity development, RISE complements ongoing efforts of Carnegie Corporation and other foundations to strengthen Africa’s universities by meeting the individual needs of scholars.

Most countries in sub-Saharan Africa lack a critical mass of expertise in important scientific disciplines. RISE networks will link researchers who are isolated professionally and geographically. Students will receive a comprehensive graduate education, obtaining their degrees from one university in the network but spending periods of time at other institutions, both in and outside the network, that provide complementary instruction and research opportunities and access to scientific instrumentation.

Carnegie Corporation will support the initial three-year phase of the Initiative through a $3.3 million grant to the Princeton, New Jersey-based Institute for Advanced Study, which will implement the Initiative in conjunction with African partners. The Corporation expects that, following a successful demonstration phase, RISE will draw interest and financial support from development banks and national governments.

"RISE, conceived and designed in close collaboration with African colleagues, is a direct response to calls from universities, governments and industry to enhance the capacity of Africa’s universities to train and engage PhD’s in fields relevant to the continent’s development,” said Phillip Griffiths, Chair of the Science Initiative Group at IAS. “With governments and development banks increasingly recognizing the value of science and engineering, higher education, and regional partnerships, the Initiative comes at a most opportune time."

By helping to create more and better trained professors, academic job prospects and a research infrastructure that utilizes the best minds and up-to-date laboratories from a broad region, it is hoped that the Initiative will ensure that more young African scientists will choose to build research and teaching careers in their home countries or regions.

The network’s support for training in African settings, its explicit focus on producing future professors and a commitment to leveraging its proximity to uniquely African research problems, will help produce graduates who are committed and trained to pursue their academic careers on the African continent.

The Initiative will consist, at first, of three training networks selected through a competitive process, with winners announced in July 2008. Each network will comprise nodes in at least three different countries in sub-Saharan Africa, primarily at universities but also at research institutions or government labs that provide expertise or equipment unavailable at the university-based nodes.

To apply science-based solutions to a variety of critical contemporary challenges and to build a foundation for future innovation, the networks will focus on advancing both problem-driven and basic science. Training networks in the applied, or problem-driven sciences, may focus on renewable energy, including biofuels; on safe drinking water; or on information and communications, including software engineering. Priority areas for networks in the basic sciences include materials science, mathematics, and chemistry, including biochemistry—all of which are fundamental to technology development and application.

The effort to boost the number of science professors in Africa’s universities reflects Carnegie Corporation’s new emphasis on supporting scholars through networks. The Corporation expects to announce similar grants over the course of the next year including an effort to enhance the capacity of Africa-based natural scientists to conduct advanced research in cell biology.

The most recent phase of the Corporation’s decades-long history of supporting higher education in Africa, initiated in 1999, focused on strengthening the institutional capacity of selected universities in South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana and Nigeria. While many of the universities funded under the institutional capacity strengthening work will continue to receive Corporation support, the funding will be directed toward these new human capacity-building priorities, including improving the quality of research, teaching and training, strengthening managerial skills and connecting academic institutions to the private sector. These individual skills are imperative if Africa’s scholars and researchers are to continue to participate fully in the development of their countries and regions and remain globally competitive and financially self-sustaining.

ABOUT CARNEGIE CORPORATION OF NEW YORK

Carnegie Corporation of New York was created by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to promote “the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding.” For more than 95 years the Corporation has carried out Carnegie’s vision of philanthropy by building on his two major concerns: international peace and advancing education and knowledge. As a private grantmaking foundation, the Corporation will invest more than $100 million this year in nonprofits to fulfill Mr. Carnegie's mission, “to do real and permanent good in this world.” The Corporation’s capital fund, originally donated at a value of about $135 million, had a market value of approximately $3 billion on September 30, 2007.

AFRICA REGIONAL INITIATIVE IN SCIENCE AND EDUCATION (RISE) REQUEST FOR CONCEPT PROPOSALS

Click here for the full text of the RISE Request for Concept Proposal, including deadline and submission information. Inquiries may be addressed to sig(at)ias.edu.