[ARUSHA] African researchers are missing out on publications and career advancement because they are failing to negotiate joint ownership of data generated by international research collaborations, a meeting has heard.
Elly Katabira, associate professor of medicine at Uganda's Makerere University College of Health Sciences, said that African researchers are often indifferent to data ownership.
He was speaking at the 5th Forum European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) forum in Tanzania this week (12–14 October).
"Among students under training and younger researchers, data is not viewed as an opportunity for several publications, career advancements and promotion or access to better jobs," he said. He blames an education system that puts a premium on passing exams and gives students little information about the importance of owning data.
Katabira also said that African researchers often have limited participation in protocol design and development during collaborations.
"Many research protocols between African countries and their developed world partners are drawn by the latter and do not spell out what happens after research and publication," he said.
Adeyinka G. Falusi, professor of haematology at Nigeria's Ibadan University agreed: "Many researchers in Africa just go for already-designed research projects and have no part in data management and utilisation. They are just part of the execution."
There are practical reasons too, with concerns about the capacity of Sub-Saharan African institutions and researchers to store and manage large amounts of electronic data. Even when electronic storage is available, Katabira said, it is poorly utilised.
Few institutions in Sub-Saharan African have funding for data generation and management and are therefore in a weak position to negotiate with their developed-country partners, he said.
Even data-sharing between universities is hard, said Falusi. "African institutions must have depository structures for research data and sharing of research should be encouraged," she said.
Gibson Kibiki of the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre, said one limitation is the lack of modern scientific platforms for data analysis, meaning analysis has to be done in the West — making ownership negotiations difficult.
But Katabira says: "Researchers are part of the institutions and must stop complaining about them. They should seek to be part of the decision-making process."