Question Thirteen

13. Developing New Research Cultures

  • Q: What is the specific goal here? EITHER use capacity building to develop the hugely skill-based training, often predicated on a strong education system from kindergarten upwards, such that Africa can participate in this northern scientific culture. OR develop a new scientific culture whereby you are not judged on the basis of conforming to standard science. I know these aren’t necessarily alternatives, but organizations like PARC need to decide where to put their efforts, right? Anonymous  

A: Your query speaks to the critical question of whether, or to what extent, Africa wants or needs to nurture a separate, new scientific culture or intellectual tradition that includes unique methodologies and does not seek to assimilate European traditions and standards.   

 This is first and foremost an Africa-internal debate to be had with answers to be determined in the continent.  However, as the central problem is relational, answers might depend at least in part on what change – what ceding of epistemic authority – is possible on the part of global Northern scientific constituencies.   This could be explored for instance in honest and open conversations and exchange – which PARC should help nurture – including as part of research capacity strengthening (RCS) activities for the next generation of scholars. In our engagement, taking the cue from Africa-led research capacity strengthening initiatives, we specifically envisage contributing to: 

  1. The fostering of connections and provision of perspectives that support awareness raising, open debate and reflection among students and young scholars about the need for a shift in the research system in Africa’s favour, and required directions for change in, and new modes of global North-Africa research cooperation. 
  1. The embedding of new cooperation modes in the training / capacity development provided.