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Accepted Paper:

COVID-19 and beyond: why science-as-usual will not work  
Carla-Leanne Washbourne (University College London) Julius Mugwagwa (University College London) Anne Marie Kagwesage (University of Rwanda) Remy Twiringiyimana (UCL)

Paper short abstract:

This paper uses the case of science granting councils (SGCs) in Africa to argue that ‘pressure’ from the COVID-19 pandemic necessitates rethinking how decisions on public funding of research are made, if responsiveness and resilience to crises are to be achieved.

Paper long abstract:

The COVID-19 global pandemic has exposed frailties across many sectors of economies. The sudden outbreak of the novel coronavirus at the end of 2019 and its rapid global spread to infect nearly 110 million, causing more than 2.4 million deaths to date has been a perfect storm of human and physical factors, simultaneously testing various aspects of our deeply interconnected societies, resulting in delayed, sluggish, inadequate and at times impotent responses to the pandemic. If there is a silver lining that has visibly emerged from the pandemic, it is the important, yet often hidden role that different disciplines of science and engineering play in generating and providing tools for dealing with societal challenges. Our on-going work on the Science Granting Councils Initiative in sub-Saharan Africa Training Effectiveness Case Studies (STECS) project has shown that indeed SGCs in Africa have emerged as a strong coalition point for promoting and lobbying for more funding for research and innovation, and championing numerous socio-technical imaginaries from technological leapfrogging to homegrown economic development through generation of new knowledge, technologies and innovations. In these settings, the pandemic has highlighted the importance, not just of the availability of different tools from science, but their timeliness and relevance to contexts of application. This paper argues that the COVID-19 pandemic ‘pressure’ should necessitate a rethinking of how and where decisions are made on where to spend funding for research, especially public funding, which can play a critical role in responsiveness and resilience to crises such as the current pandemic.

Round Table P39
Science as (un)usual: COVID-19, science, innovation and societal recovery in Sub-Saharan Africa
  Session 1 Thursday 1 July, 2021, -