On June 6th 2020, the Pan-African Scientific Research Council (PASRC) held its inaugural Zoom meeting. More than 200 scholars expressed interest, representing over 32 countries on 4 continents, including 22 African countries. Though the meeting took place on a Saturday, over 100 participants joined the Zoom call on the big day. A recording of the entire PASRC Zoom meeting is available online, along with the PASRC meeting agenda.
In his inaugural speech, the founder of PASRC, Professor Leonard Wantchekon stressed the main goals of the Council, which are to create synergies across disciplines and among Africans on the Continent and in the Diaspora, to meet the acute need for research, to build intergenerational connections and inspire young potential researchers, and to usher in inclusive innovation.
Representing Institut Pasteur de Côte d’Ivoire, an academic partner of ASE, microbiologist Dr. Valerie Carole Mbengue Gbonon, presented the research activities of her institute, along with colleague Dr. Bertin Guede Kipre. From Princeton University, Vice Dean for Innovation Rodney presented his department’s top priorities, which include enhancing external partnerships, working more collaboratively and promoting inclusive innovation. Dr. Jessica Metcalf (Assistant Professor of Ecology, Evolutionary Biology & Public Affairs) discussed her personal investment in the continent. The launch meeting thus set the groundwork for strong academic partnerships.
Government representatives and potential African Union partners were also present. Dr. Rita Cooma, the Chief Advisor to the PASRC and a member of the AUDA-NEPAD Pan Africa Sustainable Education Global Campaign, spoke both about efforts to pass a UN resolution that would make a Permanent Campaign for education, and about fundraising opportunities.
The meeting also featured a presentation by His Excellency Ambassador Tete Antonio, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Angola and Former Permanent Observer of the African Union to the United Nations. Ambassador Tete expressed warm support of the PASRC and discussed the need for an education revolution that will regroup people of good will across African borders and across inter-continental borders, with an emphasis on the Diaspora.
Much of the PASRC launch focused on the five committees that will help solidify the functioning of the PASRC: the Fellowship Committee, Research Committee, Journal Committee, Fundraising Committee, and Public Engagement Committee, led by D Raouf Boucekkine (Aix Marseille), Dr. Johan Fourie (Stellenbosch University), Dr. Roland Pongou (University of Ottawa), Dr. Rita Cooma, and Dr. Benno Ndulu (Mwalimu Nyerere Chair in Development and Former Governor Bank of Tanzania), respectively. Participants including Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, who is an MD PhD and the Vice Chancellor of the University of Global Health Equity and a Professor of Pediatrics at University of Global Health Equity (Rwanda), joined in the lively discussion that ensued.
The Powerpoint presentation shared during the meeting is available here.
Key takeaways emerged from each of the committees. The research committee discussed potential research themes, ranging from network dynamics to epidemiology to engineering, to name a few examples. Once the Council is more fully established, research awards will be offered for post-doctoral fellows and visiting scholars, and in recognition of outstanding achievements. The PASRC resolved to launch a journal, tentatively titled African Scientist, with the aim of amplifying top-quality research and giving African scholars an interdisciplinary platform for their findings. The Fellowship Committee described the plan for senior fellows, junior fellows, and associate members. This committee emphasized that a 5-year term as a Fellow will not merely be an honorific, but also linked with meaningful research output. Lastly, the Public Engagement committee outlined a strategy encompassing high school students, universities, and national, regional, and international governmental and non-governmental bodies alike.
Overall, the meeting successfully convened the many PASRC supporters and future members, while laying a visionary path forward. As next steps, the PASRC organizers will release a meeting report, respond to attendees’ questions and suggestions, and register the entity in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.