31 October 2012

Benin: National Database Could Raise Country's Science Profile

Photo: Zahur Ramji/AKDN
Class science programs assist in expanding training for women.

Cotonou — Benin needs a national database of scientific research if it is to raise the profile of its science and depend less on international cooperation for its research, according to a study.

The number of scientific articles produced by researchers based in Benin has been growing since 2001, the study, published in Scientometrics last month (18 September), found.

But 80 per cent of these were produced as part of international collaborations - and less than five per cent were published in African journals.

The study, which analysed 2,215 articles from Benin indexed in the Scopus citation database - covering the period 1996-2011 - also found that none of the country's 27 journals are indexed in international citation databases.

Eustache Mêgnigbêto, lead author of the study and a researcher at the Bureau of Studies and Research in Information Science (BERSI) said the results revealed a "bad situation" for Benin's science publishing.

To help raise the profile of Benin's science, the study suggests setting up a national bibliographic database to list all locally produced scientific publications and make them accessible to the public.

Such databases have had positive results in countries including China and India, according to Mêgnigbêto.

Ouorou Kobi Douro Kpindou, an entomologist from Benin, agreed that setting up a national database would promote national scientific production, especially if it was available to scientists and frequently updated.

Epiphane Quenum, president of the Commission for Education in Benin's parliament, said his commission would lobby parliament to pass a law on the creation of a national database.

"Benin's publications must not remain unknown to the international scientific community and to students who need such publications as sources for their own work," he told SciDev.Net.

The study also found that Benin's growth in scientific output has occurred mainly in the fields of agriculture and medicine, and mainly from two key institutions: the University of Abomey-Calawi and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture office in Benin.

It attributes the recent growth in publications to the setting up of a second public university, the University of Parakou in 2001, as well as several international research or cooperation institutions' offices, such as AfricaRice, which tend to produce a lot of research.

The study notes that recent government strategies in Benin have recognised scientific research as a tool for human development, and stated that research should contribute to social welfare.

But due to a lack of funding for national research programmes, Benin's researchers accept invitations to work on projects by institutions from foreign countries, according to Mêgnigbêto.

"The problems Beninese society is facing could hardly be solved by people from abroad," he said.

Because few papers published by Benin's scientists in international collaboration deal with issues related to local problems, Mêgnigbêto said, so far "Benin's research system could not solve problems our society is facing" and has not been contributing efficiently to national development.

Link to abstract in Scientometrics

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk.

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