African science reaches for 21st century as Think Tank Lobbies for Synchrotron Light Source
It would be foolhardy for us to bury our heads in the sand to the truth of these claims, but we have to protest if this labeling, balkanization even, is employed to justify persistence of the status quo. On the same scale, we must laud any attempts at a “Jump”.
The African Academy of Sciences, a pan African Nairobi headquarterd science think tank and incubator, is urging African science to do just that — Jump — via an online petition: Call to support the creation of an Africa Synchrotron project .
— AAS (@AASciences) August 23, 2017
To appreciate the gravity — of what is by many measures is just but a flicker — of the AAS lobby for a synchrotron light source, we seek lessons from the struggles of international/ collaborative health research ethics.
Lessons for African science from stalled progress realized in collaborative health research ethicsCollaborative health research has made attempts at remedying this despicable state — where the highest level of science, technology and research is guaranteed for developed nations whilst lite, low- cost, often bad science is prescribed for ‘developing’ and ‘least developed’ regions of the world — by ingraining stipulations of same standard of care and responsive health research fair benefits package as prerequisites for ethical conduct of health research in areas with less robust health systems.
However, despite the best intentions, the architecture of health services in Africa often makes these noble ethical constructs utopian. How for example could a research protocol on cancer achieve the highest standard of care, whilst East and Central Africa lacks a PET scan? Surely, it would be defeatist to deny an otherwise scientific robust, just and socially beneficial study ethical approval based on this. After all, on cost benefit analysis, denying society the benefits of high level health research could turn to be even more unethical.
While it holds that ethical decisions remain a conscious balance of benefits and risks even in the most ideal of situations; it should be lost that it is unethical for Africa and Antarctica to be the only of the six continents without a synchrotron light source for scientific research.
On the scale of things — disease, poverty and hunger — a synchrotron light source is no different from any other high impact intervention of public health significance like Vitamin A supplementation or exclusive breastfeeding. Any fears of the financial implications should be stymied on realization that for all the talk of shift from programmatic based aid support in healthcare; a synchrotron light source will be a significant shot in the arm to the much vouched for health systems approach to improving the health of African populations.
Any biosafety concerns could expeditiously be expended via bench marking, and importation of expertise to transfer skills to our workforce. I find it hypocritical that Africa readily welcomes foreign expertise in infrastructure and even electioneering and yet can’t fond an acceptable framework to tap into global expertise in science.
The level of success of immigrant skilled labor for American science should stir our imagination if we are to move African science into the 21st century.
As a shared resource, with one stroke, things should suddenly look up for the health research pillar of WHO’s responsive health system construct for a significant portion of the continent. This is not even considering the usefulness of a synchrotron light source across the whole spectrum of African science.
It is our opinion that a synchrotron light source fits the bill of the “jump” move that Africa needs to undertake in order to move into the 21st century. On this one, the usual piecemeal initiatives — capacity building , collaborative initiatives — wouldn’t suffice. As AAS is urging us , African science should learn to walk as we move. After all is said and done, a synchrotron light source is 1940’s technology!
Synchrotron light source 101 for dummies
How we would put it : A special type of light, that is very bright thus enabling scientists work at the nano level.. Think of it as a very powerful light that enables scientists see the tiniest structures and journey through the narrowest nooks and crannies. It is produced in short bursts, when sub-atomic particles are rotated under high speeds within a magnetic field.
Best online resource for non-technical people: The article: Synchrotron Light by the Institute of Physics. Simple, informative enjoyable, readable science.
Best take away resource on synchrotron light source: The Australian Synchrotron, a world-class national research facility that uses accelerator technology to produce a powerful source of light – x-rays and infrared radiation – a million times brighter than the sun, has a synchrotron light source fact file for download on their website.