The National Academies of Sciences (NAS) today announced it would partner with the science academies of Nigeria, Uganda, and South Africa for a $20 million project to help African scientists provide their governments with advice on science and public policy.
The 10-year program, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will tackle some of the continent's most serious health issues such as the HIV/AIDS epidemic, chronic malnutrition, and malaria. "We are hoping all of sub-Saharan Africa will benefit," says Patrick Kelley, director of the Academies' Board on African Science Academy Development.
To select the three academies, the National Academies teams visited all seven science academies in Africa to learn how each functioned, gauge the strength of its scientific community, and assess the receptivity of the government and public to scientific advice. Kelley says the National Academies will control the funds and guide African scientists in conducting scientific studies, organizing health workshops, and connecting with policy makers.
The National Academies also has a plan for academies in Cameroon, Senegal, Ghana, and Kenya. Small grants will strengthen their infrastructure by helping to build their staff and planning future programs that could attract donor funding. Canada has indicated its willingness to fund a fourth partner but plans are still on the drawing board.
According to Princeton Lyman, former U.S. ambassador to South Africa and Nigeria, and now a senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations, Washington, D.C, "it is an excellent effort that marks the beginning of a long-term commitment to building relationships between scientists and policy makers."