Zimbabwean science must fight many battles

Zimbabwean scientists work in difficult conditions Copyright: WHO / P. Virot

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Scientists in Zimbabwe are finding ways to continue their work despite “extremely difficult” research conditions, such as budgetary hardships, minimal government support and emigration of colleagues and talented students, says this Science article. 

Economic problems such as hyperinflation ― where prices increase so rapidly that research funds and salaries can’t keep up ― often hold up research, while lack of funds halts the construction of new university buildings and the purchasing of laboratory equipment.

Recent initiatives, led by universities and the two-year-old Zimbabwe Academy of Science, are helping scientists obtain the national and international support they need.

Zimbabwean scientists often rely on foreign grants ― most Zimbabwean medical research is supported by Europe and the United States. But these grants are often diluted by inflation and the government’s unofficial exchange rates, which are much lower than the official rate.

In some cases, donors and grantees manage to bypass the government’s currency traders by using foreign accounts to buy and ship research materials.

And researchers also need to reassure foreign organisations that international sanctions against President Robert Mugabe’s regime are being respected. 

Link to full article in Science

Reference: Science 316, 684 (2007)