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Nigerian Scientist: “Science opens up the human mind to the realm of possibilities.”

Published: 2019-04-29

During 2019, our blog posts will primarily feature a range of countries in which IFS has awarded grants to early-career scientists, drawing on responses to a 15-item survey with mostly open-ended questions that we are sending to former and present grantees in selected countries, as an element of this year’s process culminating in our new 2021-2030 strategy. This month we highlight Nigeria, where 309 grantees (69 to women and 240 to men) have been awarded by IFS since it was founded in 1974. As one respondent noted, “Science opens up the human mind to the realm of possibilities”.

Nighisty Ghezae, DirectorNighisty Ghezae, IFS Director

Of the 209 invitations sent to colleagues in Nigeria, 92 (or 44%) responded to the survey. Among them, 14% have master's degrees, 65% have doctorates and 21% have done post-doctoral work, with 90% of respondents living and working in Nigeria. They are directors, lecturers and professors of various ranks, and scientists, research fellows and officers in government and private laboratories, with a department head, dean and vice-chancellor among them. Their research areas involve agricultural extension, crop protection, pest management, forest economics, natural products, climate change, environmental sciences, water quality, ethnopharmacology, drug discovery, radiation physics, oceanography and zoology, among others. Of the many examples given of how their research has been put into use, of note are the conversion of fish waste to polymers which can be used as biodegradable packaging materials or vaccine patches; description of the governing mechanism of the Atlantic Niño seasonality, a key to seasonal climate prediction over the Guinea Coast; work with waste pickers that was considered a developing waste management policy in Nigeria; and the shaping of policy towards addressing challenges faced by early and mid-career women scientists in West Africa. Seventy-four percent of respondents have published more than ten peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters or books, 86 colleagues are members of professional scientific organizations, and 47 have received awards for their work, both in Nigeria and in other countries.

In response to a question about exciting or rewarding professional experiences, were the examples of contributing to science in spite of limited resources, training and mentoring younger scientists, working with villagers, getting published and promoted, and being awarded grants from IFS and other organizations. It was this last experience that was overwhelmingly cited as an important factor contributing to career development, along with guidance and support from advisors and mentors, opportunities for collaboration and networking, and one's own determination, motivation, enthusiasm and resilience. Examples of career challenges faced by respondents included funding, equipment and facilities, national security, and balancing work and family life. In terms of what would be most helpful to them achieving their career goals, women respondents mentioned more enabling work environment, less stress, more funding and collaboration, having a woman mentor, family and child support, and more equal work-home balance. When asked what they need to change so that women can play a more significant role in science and research, men respondents highlighted factors such as encouragement and support of many kinds, increasing opportunities and representation of women, extending age limits for funding and employment, and changing men's attitudes towards women.

Common suggestions for links can be strengthened among scientists, research institutions, grants-making organizations and funding sources included supporting scientists in capacity-building and participating in workshops and conferences, providing access to information and to internet-based interactive platforms, and funding research teams, collaborations and networks. Finally, with regard to perceptions of the role of science in national development, it was seen as essential, though in the words of one respondent, "Persistent disregard for investment in science and technology is retarding national development in Nigeria." Another colleague noted more optimistically that "Science opens up the human mind to the realm of possibilities".

With thanks 

Nighisty Ghezae



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