Accepted paper:

Biomedical research and the making of scientific research institutes in Africa

Authors:

Ferdinand Okwaro (The University of Cambridge)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the challenges, processes and frameworks within which biomedical research and scientific research institutions are constituted in the 'neoliberal' era in Africa from the vantage point of African scientists.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines the challenges, processes and frameworks within which biomedical research and scientific research institutions are constituted in the 'neoliberal' era in Africa from the vantage point of African scientists. It is based on ethnographic fieldwork in an HIV research laboratory of a major African state university, with additional data from in-depth interviews with scientists working in related research institutions. Many successful research projects and research institutes in Africa are currently organised within the framework of 'collaboration' or 'partnerships' between African institutions and their counterparts from the 'North'. This framework signals a shift away from the legacy of unequal colonial power relations under which earlier medical research in Africa had been conducted, and seeks to address the resulting ethical challenges for post-colonial medical research. However, collaborations bring together scientists, institutions and populations with wide disparities in economic standing and power, education and experience, and levels of health and health care provision. Moreover they continue to be sustained through the injection of funds, expertise and forms of technological organisation from the North. Amidst these persisting inequalities, this emphasis on equality and independence implied by the idiom of partnership and collaboration can and does effectively hinder the articulation and engagement with the conflicts of interest that may arise from inequality. To 'collaborate', African scientists and their institutions engage instead a variety of less explicit strategies and practices to constitute experience and perceive their engagement in transnational science, which are discussed in this paper.

panel P61
In the name of progress, disease control and elimination: medical research, global funds and local people