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African countries must contribute to one another’s knowledge output – Dr Pascale Ondoa, Director of Science and New Initiatives – ASLM

Africa carries the majority of the world’s health burden and at the same time lacks the critical mass of researchers and scientist to address the health problem of the continent and contribute to the global health research.

A research ecosystem that allows African brains to collaborate with each other and their international counterparts, share best practices and leverage common tools and resources is key to durably solve the major health challenges for Africa. Collaboration allows people to accomplish more together than they can individually, serve larger groups of people, and attain higher levels of knowledge.

Collaboration is essential in for research and development of new therapies and diagnostics, the establishment of disease surveillance systems, outbreak investigation and control, and delivery of various health services with maximal coverage and efficiency. Collaboration often adds breadth to the scope of work, depth and length to the scientific network. It is always refreshing and productive when experts from various fields come together for extensive collaborative efforts. The African Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM) has seen the significance of strong partnerships and collaborations that entail extensive literature review, data analysis and in-depth interviews with leading researchers. Collaboration makes way for the development of new strategies and innovative medical technologies.

International collaboration can build scientific capacity in developing countries, but can in some case be blistering to the creativity of African researchers. According to Omwoyo Bosire Onyancha (Knowledge production through collaborative research in sub-Saharan Africa: how much do countries contribute to each other’s knowledge output and citation impact?, 2011), Africa actually suffers from subcritical research systems and collaboration dominance. Single-author articles on the continent appear to be on the verge of extinction, perhaps as the result of foreign funding sources that favor groups of researchers and not individual researchers. Even if this were the case, the question remains: would Africa rather have collaborative instead of individual research on a mass scale, or no research at all? The former is preferable if development is the end goal.

By hosting conferences such as ASLM2018 in Abuja, Nigeria, set to take place in December 2018, ASLM seeks to change the way that medical research is conducted. The conference will be a platform for various contributions, participation, co-ordination, training and development of skills for future collaborations. The goal is to ensure healthy African communities now and for the long-term.

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