New book sheds light on career paths of young African scientists

November 05, 2018

A new book provides a detailed account of factors affecting the scientific productivity and career paths of young scientists across Africa. It offers critical insights for future generations of scientists and decision-makers in higher education and science policy in Africa.

The Next Generation of Scientists in Africa is edited by Professor Catherine Beaudry (Polytechnique de Montréal) and Professors Johann Mouton and Heidi Prozesky (Stellenbosch University), all of whom also led the research team.

Young scientists are a powerful resource for change and sustainable development because they drive innovation and knowledge creation. The conditions of their early careers will likely affect their entire career paths, including the extent to which they can contribute solutions for the future, yet research on young scientists and their career trajectories, especially in Africa, has generally been scarce.

The research team assembled the most comprehensive database to date to better understand the career paths of young scientists across Africa, taking into account differences across scientific fields and between men and women. Relying on a multi-design approach that combines bibliometric analysis, a survey, and interviews, they analyzed data from thousands of journal articles, more than  7,500 survey responses, and 250 in-depth qualitative interviews. The study, which ran from April 2015 to October 2018, was jointly funded by IDRC and Robert Bosch Stiftung (Germany). 

The Next Generation of Scientists in Africa summarizes the research team’s findings, namely that following the decline in science investments in Africa in the final decades of the 20th century, scientific production appears to have increased once again across Africa. Despite this positive shift, young researchers involved in rebuilding the research landscape face various pressures: fierce competition for funding, insufficient mentoring, a competitive work culture, heavy teaching loads, and limited mobility and international research collaboration opportunities. The book calls for African governments and others to re-invest in the next generation of scientists, with specific recommendations for African universities and national science funding agencies.

On November 5, The Next Generation of Scientists in Africa will be presented by professors Beaudry and Prozesky, with doctoral student Bassirou Diagne, at a workshop entitled “Partnership for impact: Investing in research, scholarship and innovations in Africa” in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. Jointly hosted by South Africa’s National Research Foundation and IDRC, the workshop will bring African policymakers, researchers, private sector leaders, funding agencies, and universities together.

The Next Generation of Scientists in Africa is available in open access from Cape Town-based publisher African Minds as of November 6.