Dr. Flower Msuya, UDSM, one of many speakers at the Sida Science Day.
Research plays a key role in development
In mid December, Sida Science Day took place over the course of two days. High on the agenda were discussions regarding research in developing countries and the importance of research for meeting the 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development by 2030.
Swedish research funding has a long and unique history. When Sarec (the Board for Third World Research) was formed almost 40 years ago, it became a pioneer within state research funding. A lot has happened since then and new innovations have changed the playing field with regards to development issues. New vaccinations have eliminated diseases, world hunger has been halved and the internet has brought new possibilities for development and technology transfer.
A lot of Sarec's funding has gone towards building state universities in countries that lacked the capacity to conduct their own research. Some of the countries that were supported by Sarec still receive research funding from Sweden as a part of Sida's activities. At present, Sida collaborates bilaterally with Bolivia, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda to develop the countries' research capacity.
“Research is moving in the right direction. Today, many prominent and recognised researchers come from low-income countries where they conduct research at their own institutions, in part with support from Sida,” says AnnaMaria Oltorp, Head of Sida's unit for research cooperation.
An example of this is the Sida-funded research centre named the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) and its Direct General Dr Segenet Kelemu who researches the harmful effects of mosquitoes and other insects, and how to conquer the diseases they cause. She is known worldwide for her work which examines how microorganisms can improve their ability to resist disease and adapt to environmental and climate changes. Her work has contributed to finding solutions for organic and small-scale farms.
The Sandwich model
In the mid 1980's, the Sandwich model was introduced to counteract researchers leaving their home institutions. The model involves PhD students from low-income countries receiving supervision in Sweden but collecting data and working from their home institutions. The purpose is to provide the PhD students with sufficient facilities to stay in their home countries and continue to conduct their research there.
Increasing the credibility of universities and research facilities in low-income countries is intended to increase the level of education and the exchange of knowledge between countries.
“The universities in these countries continuously strive to increase their professionalism, transparency and credibility in order to compete in the global research arena, and it is therefore important for them to retain their brightest researchers,” says AnnaMaria Oltorp.
Karolinska Institutet and Makerere University
The Sandwich model is still used in projects that are funded by Sida. Currently, it is being used in a successful cooperation between Karolinska Institutet and Makerere University in Uganda. In a joint research cooperation, students from Uganda and Sweden are able to obtain a PhD from both Universities. These studies focus on everything from malaria to mental illness, and a very successful study led to the reduction of infant mortality through unit-dosing medicine for young children.
“In one of the latest projects, the Swedish healthcare services for diabetes will learn how doctors in Uganda use society's resources to alter the lifestyles of diabetics,” says AnnaMaria Oltorp.