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Addressing inequalities in research capacity in Africa

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.331.7519.705 (Published 29 September 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:705

Rapid Response:

Lack of research impetus in Africa: a way forward

Dear Editor,

Lack of encouragement, unethical research practices, a colonial past
that left some degree of suspicion and mistrust, and worst of all the
instability, etc, have all contributed to the lack of research in Africa.
The following may help in resolving the issue:

· Research topic should be properly thought over, duly vetted and in
tune with the most pressing problems. Topics providing immediate results
and solutions for the agonies and problems faced by the common man should
be selected and prioritized. Until and unless the indigenous population
is convinced (and overtly so at that) of the possible benefits which may
accrue to them, probably it may be difficult getting anticipated support
for any research from them.

· Not every topic may be of immediate relevance. Malnutrition
(including obesity) and its effects, HIV and AIDS, TB, malaria, STIs’,
stress and other psychiatric disorders, and alcoholism related issues are
more prevalent and due indulgence may be provided first.

· Africa has never been bereft of talent. Talent must be explored,
encouraged and provided due support and further training if needed.
Efforts to incorporate them as co-workers can be of immense value, which
should be encouraged and cultivated. If outsiders are to be incorporated
for research, those who have built up a rapport and faith amongst the
populace may be preferred. Emphasis may be placed on long term
partnerships. The prevalence of mutual suspicion within other African
Nationals and in-between other tribes must not be ignored.

· Fully functional and effective ethical committee may be established
and every research topic may first be thoroughly vetted by this committee.

· There should be transparent methods and modalities established to
seek timely guidance and frank opinion/course corrections from a qualified
team established to help budding scientists when faced with any problem or
dilemma. Those who seek out this help should not feel afraid of
plagiarism and of their work being outdone by others.

· Many researches are left half-cooked due to inconclusive results,
exhaustion, or poor funds, etc. These should be supported and guided
towards their logical conclusions.

· Library facilities must be created through philanthropic
contributions. Publishers may like to help and provide free copies of
their publications to the Sub-Saharan African countries on a regular
basis. Internet facilities may help the research impetus further still.

Having had the privilege of working in Southern African region, these
were the issues I felt that need urgent redress for improving research in
Africa. Similar problems may also be prevalent in many other parts of the
world, requiring similar help.

With regards.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

16 October 2005
Dr. Rajesh Chauhan
Consultant, Family Medicine & Communicable Diseases
309/9 A.V. Colony, Sikandra, Agra – 282007. India