For the last 12 months I’ve had the privilege of having worked as study director on the review of the African Science Academy Development Initiative (ASADI). It has been a privilege as the programme itself has achieved so much, and also because I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with some amazing people from many of the African academies, the US ASADI staff, and many stakeholders plus a great review team, and learnt so much from them all.
ASADI is a partnership of the US National Academies and a number of counterparts in Africa, aimed at strengthening the capacity of African academies to inform policy making through evidence based advice.
We have just launched the review report, Enhancing the Capacity of African Science Academies: the Final Evaluation of ASADI, at a meeting in Uganda. The review process itself has been enlightening – the review panel visited each of the five academies in Africa which received the most substantial support, conducting over 100 interviews as part of the data gathering.
As study director, I was keen to discover how the report would be received. It was good to hear from some of the academies present that they welcomed the report, which went beyond what they had expected. It was also good news that the programme has not only met but exceeded its original objectives.
The report makes 8 recommendations for African science academies and other stakeholders, aimed at outlining a pathway towards continued growth, greater financial sustainability and increased policy influence for individual academies and the broader African academy movement.
Key messages include working in partnership whilst shaping any future programme in Africa; maintaining the Annual Meetings of Science Academies (AMASA); strengthening and expanding the capacity of academies which has already been developed; and strengthening the Network of African Science Academies (NASAC).
There are a number of challenges. The recommendations will need implementing, and with ASADI support coming to an end in early 2015, the main challenge is for the academies to maintain the momentum.
The academies have responded to this by setting up a small task group to manage the transition of responsibility from ASADI to NASAC. Fortunately a number of events already planned will facilitate this process, along with a proposal from the Academy of Science for South Africa (ASSAf) on funding some future activities. But NASAC will need to rise to the challenge, and NASAC and its members will need to develop a road map and strategy with some urgency.
So whilst ASADI is nearly over and my work as study director, delivering the report, is complete, this is not the end but instead the start of a new opportunity for academies in Africa and those who want to work in partnership with them.