Citizen Science is engaging non-science individuals and communities to collect useful data for scientific use. Citizen science is not new in Africa as experts from across the continent have been gathering to stimulate new ideas and collaborations, share experiences, discuss tools and technologies, and to assess opportunities.
However, there was no formal citizen science association to bring the freelance experts together or connect them to a common cause. There was no way for African or African-based citizen scientists to identify priorities, discuss challenges and explore opportunities on how to advance any key subject.
Last week, universities led by United States International University in Africa (USIU-Africa) established a pan-African Citizen Science Association to bring together research institutions, Government departments and NGOs in Africa to utilize citizen science to collect data for research and innovation to develop the continent.
The African Citizen Science Association will be hosted at the USIU-Africa’ Research Center to enable community-driven research gatherings for educators, students, scientists, data managers, and government agencies to collect data, share insights and design projects to help solve local problems.
Announced on December 4th, the African Citizen Association at USIU-Africa will provide linkage between local experts and the the public to help understand problems communities want solved as well as work as an entity to access research funds, sign up local and global partnerships and foster collaboration for public policy and decision making. The African Citizen Science Association will have a seat, and a vote at the Global Citizen Science forum.
USIU-Africa science center will support individual citizen scientists to collect data to create new products for the market or get feedback on how existing products are doing as well as engage in local development projects with government agencies and international organisations. To do these USIU-Africa will need high performance computing (HPC) to analyze the collected data by the different associations.
Apart from being helpful to get funding for research, such a center would be helpful in the policy making process and provide value addition to projects and provide a safe space for students, innovators and researchers to bring their ideas, share and engage.
Unlike in other markets, Europe allows citizen scientists to seek for funding to work on scientific research projects and that was the motivation of setting up the citizen science associations therefore in Africa, the African Citizen Science Association will be central to researchers who want to pursue their projects as it would be the legal body with which they can raise funding through.
The HPC will also be important as citizen science generates big data which can be manipulated to solve some of Africa’s biggest problems in health, agriculture, transport among others. With a pan-African association, it will also be easier for governments and organizations to trust citizen science data and use it for policy change and decision making.
Citizen science faces the challenge of lack of uniformity of data and the absence of a body standardize the data for global use these association will help bring universities, NGOs, private sector & govt agencies together to collaborate to harness Big Data, IoT for service delivery.
With the advent of smartphones, Citizen Science data cannot be ignored. High performance computing can help citizens collect data and share it for analysis then use. USIU Africa, which has been the first to explore the possibility of the formation of a Citizen Science Association for Africa will give out space to allow for public participation in scientific research, participatory monitoring and participatory action research by non professional and amateur scientists. Working together with citizen scientists, academic staff and researchers will easily get data from their communities to find out what the communities need and help solve the issues than just working out of their faculties.
The association and center will help African Universities engage with each other, the private sector and government. African governments also haven’t been keen on the development of HPCs and the only node is available in SA. There need to be more HPCs, more centers for research & innovation to create a continental framework to realize environmental sustainability. With this Information, citizens and governments can make decisions about their lives as well as communicate to their leaders, and in turn, influence policy making.
The HPC research centre is expected to be helpful in Climate research and weather prediction which are critical for food security ad environmental conservation. The center will also help in gene sequencing, molecular research and bio-physical simulations for researchers to come up with medicines and vaccines. It can also be used for Oil, gas and mineral exploration as the continent has an abundance of natural resources. There are plenty of possibilities for retail, manufacturing and financial service sectors as well as for economic research and modeling for evidence-based policy making.