• Culture of multitasking threatens African research

    Jon Spaull


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African universities need a new model to liberate researchers from the ever-growing demands of an overstretched, underfunded higher education sector, says Daniel Masiga, a senior scientist at insect research centre icipe, in Kenya.
One of the biggest challenges faced by academics in Africa is the amount of time spent on administrative responsibilities, reducing the time available to spend on research. It would be better, Masiga argues in this interview, to employ professional administrators to manage universities and to allow academics to devote their time to the research for which they were trained. This would both increase research output and lead to better managed universities, he says.   
Icipe — the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology — runs a pan-African PhD programme for around 50 students a year. In contrast to the ‘brain drain’ crisis facing many universities across Africa, nearly all icipe alumni have remained on the continent, where their research focuses on African issues and needs.
But funding is an issue. Most of icipe’s income comes from European and North American donors, meaning its priorities are geared towards research with continent-wide relevance. National funding, however, would allow researchers to study local problems as and when they occur, even down to the village level, says Masiga.

The interview was recorded at the Cambridge-Africa day at the University of Cambridge in late 2015. 
This is part of the Africa’s PhD Renaissance series funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.