Science Equipment Policy is a PROGRAMME to promote the creation of policies that will make it easier for institutions to procure, install, use, service, maintain and dispose of equipment based on their research needs.

A group photo of delegates who attended the Consultative Meeting on Science Equipment Policy in Nairobi in August 2015.

Scope

The International Foundation of Science (IFS) and the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) are implementing the project to find solutions on how to effectively provide scientific equipment for universities and research institutions in Africa. The project conducted studies in Ethiopia, Ghana and Kenya. Through the support of the AU’s Human Resources, Science and Technology (HRST) department, the partners hope to scale up the project to the rest of the continent.

The problem

Some of the challenges that the project seeks to resolve are that equipment in institutions is either not installed as they sit in storage while institutions build facilities to house it, or it is broken down or obsolete. Institutions also do not allocate money to maintain the equipment or lack the capacity to use it. Procurement procedures in some institutions mean that it can take too much time to acquire the equipment, leading to research projects being delayed.

The solution

The AAS and IFS also partnered with national academies and research institutions in Ethiopia, Ghana and Kenya to conduct studies on procurement processes within African institutions and to review science equipment policies. They recommended that:

  • Institutions develop equipment procurement strategies based on needs of their scientists and their organisations’ priority research areas.
  • Institutions within a country or region collaborate to share equipment classified as expensive to cut costs.
  • Equipment must be procured based on an institution and country’s research agenda.
  • Institutions procure equipment from international companies with a local agent for accountability so that the companies can provide service.
  • Governments curtail bureaucracies and delays in the clearance and sourcing of equipment.
  • Institutions obtain service contracts for regular preventive maintenance, repair and calibration. They must also keep records of service and maintenance.
  • Institutions generate income from equipment use.
  • Institutions establish committees to develop policies and procedures on all disposal matters, including timing, safety and use of proceeds in line with government directives and international safe disposal protocols. They should also assess environmental and health risks of disposal.

Activities

Some of the activities that have been undertaken by the IFS and AAS as part of Science Equipment Policy are:

  • Holding a conference on Getting and Using Equipment for Scientific Research in Africa in May 2012. The conference resulted in a briefing document on how to effectively provide scientific equipment.
  • Organising an inception workshop on Developing an Enabling Scientific Equipment Policy in Africa in November 2013.
  • Conducting three country studies in Ethiopia, Ghana and Kenya on procurement processes in their national institutions between January to March 2014. The studies, which followed the May 2012 conference, were led by national co-facilitators in Ethiopia, Ghana and Kenya. See http://www.ifs.se/ifs-publications for reports of the country studies.
  • National Scientific Equipment Policy workshops held in Ethiopia, Ghana and Kenya in March and April 2014.
  • Preparing and sharing the briefing document entitled ‘Toward an Enabling Scientific Equipment Policy in Africa’ from April – July 2014. (link)
  • A Consultative Meeting on Science Equipment Policy in Nairobi in August 2015. The meeting discussed ways to influence policy on scientific equipment, among other objectives.

Partners

The AAS is implementing the Science Equipment Policy project in partnership with the International Foundation for Science and the national academies and research institutions in Ethiopia, Ghana and Kenya. The MacArthur Foundation funded the project.