Strengthening research capacity

Read the LSHTM Director's Blog about his visit to UCAD

14 February 2012

LSHTM Director, Baron Peter Piot blogs about his recent visit to UCAD: 

I accompanied the newly-knighted Sir Brian Greenwood to Dakar, Senegal, a city I visited frequently in the 1980s and ‘90s to teach, research and enjoy the wonderful mbalax music and Orchestre Baobab.

In Dakar, we saw one of the best examples of so-called capacity strengthening with MCDC, the Malaria Capacity Development Consortium. It is a unique programme with five African universities, the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, the University of Copenhagen, and coordinated by our School, harnessing talents of African researchers. Students are awarded degrees from African universities, co-supervised by European partner institutions, with students spending up to one year in Europe. So far, not too original, but key is that they can compete for re- entry grants to support continued research, small innovative grants, and are supported by mentors who are not their supervisors.

I feel strongly that as a School committed to improving health worldwide, capacity strengthening is an integral part of our mission, even when funds are not always available. Unfortunately, supporting tertiary education is not yet considered part of international development, although the World Bank is now launching an ambitious initiative on higher education, and LIDC, the Institute of Education and the School will soon host a symposium on higher education and development.

I learned about practical aspects and the impact of Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention, a new approach to malaria control developed by the Malaria Centre with colleagues in various countries. With malaria incidence declining, but transmission continuing, research is needed now more than ever. I also discussed the excellent work of LSHTM colleagues working in Dakar including Badara Cisse, Sian Clarke and Hazel McCullough. There are now clearly islands of research excellence emerging in Africa, but the departments led by Souleymane Mboup, Oumar Gaye, and Papa Salif Sow are struggling in underfunded structures with little flexibility. However, it was promising that wherever we went in the Universite Cheikh Anta Diop there was open access to wireless, even in the garden.

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