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Scientific index to ‘decolonise’ research in Africa

An African index of scientific references and publications is being planned on the initiative of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, or CODESRIA.

Ebrima Sall, executive secretary of CODESRIA, presented the plan – which is supported by the Commission of the African Union – at a forum held in Dakar, Senegal, in February, reported AllAfrica.com.

Sall said he had invited African research institutions, notably the African Observatory of Science, Technology and Innovation of the African Union, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and university personnel to discuss the creation of the index.

The index would present an inventory of publications, especially scientific journals, from the continent, list them and make them more visible. “It’s a way of classifying scientific information, published articles and in-work themes, so research engines can find them as quickly as possible. It will make African research much more prominent,” said Sall.

He regretted that at present reports concerning scientific research in the world revealed there was very little produced from the African continent, reported AllAfrica.com.

“The United States, the European countries, the Chinese, India produce much more. On the African continent it is in South Africa that the greatest intellectual production is to be found,” said Sall. “The indexes which carry out this classification are very valuable but they do not take into account the diversity of African output. They are not designed to take real account of what Africa produces.”

He believed that a good African reference index would inform Africans about what the continent’s researchers had done and what was happening in Africa.

“That would better connect the knowledge produced on the continent to the rest of the world. It’s a tool which will make research accessible to Africans, but also to the continent’s decision-makers,” said Sall.

The African index of references would also resolve one of CODESRIA’s principal challenges, reported AllAfrica.com.

Dr Maréma Touré Thiam, head of the social and human sciences section at UNESCO in Dakar, described the index as part of one of CODESRIA’s missions – to ‘decolonise’ research because, she said, “controlling knowledge is also controlling the vision people have of a society”.

To be able to construct peaceful societies, “it’s necessary to help people to know each other, to work together. For that, we must have appropriate knowledge to understand them, as well as their concerns,” she said.

Thiam referred to a UNESCO social sciences report published in 2010 that mentioned divisions in knowledge, which she said showed there were links between the geography of production of knowledge and of domination in the world, reported AllAfrica.com.

In ‘South’ countries, not only was scientific production low but it was not recognised, giving other societies a colonial vision of Africa because it was constructed from the outside. “It was others who used to tell the Africans what to do,” said Thiam.

It was important that CODESRIA’s initiative meant Africans would have the opportunity to pronounce on their own situation and on that of the rest of the world.

“One of the ultimate battles of decolonisation of research is indexisation because it’s not enough only to produce knowledge, but to ensure [it is] broadcast and recognised,” said Thiam.

To demonstrate the importance of having an index of references, she brandished a copy of the latest ranking from the University of Pennsylvania in the United States which listed CODESRIA at the top of the 7,000 think-tanks in Africa, reported AllAfrica.com.

This article is drawn from local media. University World News cannot vouch for the accuracy of the original reports.
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