A look at the Scientific African Journal’s run to date

It is over two years now since the Scientific African Journal (SAJ) was launched at the biannual Next Einstein Forum Global Gathering 2018 in Kigali.

Some might recall the gathering of my close acquaintances I mentioned who wondered how the journal was shaping up in June 2018, three months after it was launched.

 

One of them had suggested it would take “at least six months, or even more than a year” before it was possible to have an issue out.

 

It took nine months.

 

The inaugural issue of the Scientific African came out in December 2018. Since then the journal has been published every second month. The 9th issue slated for this month is in progress. So is the November issue.

I haven’t met with my friends for a while to compare notes. The coronavirus intervened, making it impossible for that social drink because of the social distancing rules.

But I would say the SAJ is having a fair run and living up to its billing as a multidisciplinary journal. It is also open access. Anybody can access all the issues free at its website.

I skimmed through the titles of the research papers—over 500 of them. I was impressed at the variety, though the technical jargon for a non-expert makes it difficult to read.

The difficulty was anticipated. “To make sure that the research published in Scientific African was reaching the public,” the publishers write, “we decided to create a magazine that would explain the research and its implications to the public.”

The aim is to use science journalists from the continent to simplify the articles. However, this aspect has not taken off yet, as is evident on the magazine website.

The reason to communicate science to the public cannot be belaboured. It not only makes research comprehensible but, importantly, shows how it can be applied to impact the daily life of, say, a small-scale farmer.

I have no reason to doubt the magazine is in the works; only that nearly coming to two years since the first issue seems like a long time.

It is also apparent that research output in the journal is from not more than a handful of countries in the continent.

Where a country is not mentioned in the article titles, one can divine from the names of the authors that most are from Eastern or West Africa.

Unless I miscounted, the West Africans have contributed the most. One could argue that the journal, meant to increase the number of published research from the continent, is still finding its feet.

But little increased output from a wider representation of countries is not surprising. It points to a larger issue of the continent’s meagre output compared to other regions.

The figure keeps coming up how Sub-Saharan Africa contributes less than 1 per cent to global research output despite accounting for 13.5 per cent of the global population.

Still, the problem is well acknowledged and there have been various efforts to address this dearth of research in the continent. Add to these efforts by the Next Einstein Forum (NEF).

The Forum aims to “to make science cool and a scientific career, a first choice”, with one of its pillars being the Scientific African Journal.

It also seeks to ensure a strong community of scientists that includes NEF Fellows, Ambassadors and local STEM champions in every country in the continent.

Another aim is to track outcomes of its Global Gathering Declarations through its NEF Policy and Foresight Institute.

The Kigali Declaration is the first of these and commits African governments to concrete actions to ensure budgets, regulatory frameworks and capacity building.

To further science entrenchment, the NEF Global Gathering 2020 was to be held last March in Nairobi but was postponed because of the pandemic.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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