African academies of science can play a central role in providing independent, objective scientific and technological advice on policy issues of critical importance to Africa’s development, targeting both their governments and other stakeholders. Generously supported by the Gates Foundation, the African Science Academy Development Initiative (ASADI) has worked to raise the profile of a select but very diverse group of African academies as strong, independent institutions, building upon the scientific merit of their members to form beacons for science and technology as a tool for ...
African academies of science can play a central role in providing independent, objective scientific and technological advice on policy issues of critical importance to Africa’s development, targeting both their governments and other stakeholders. Generously supported by the Gates Foundation, the African Science Academy Development Initiative (ASADI) has worked to raise the profile of a select but very diverse group of African academies as strong, independent institutions, building upon the scientific merit of their members to form beacons for science and technology as a tool for development.
This review of ASADI has revealed both the strengths and the weaknesses of the programme, identifying opportunities and threats for the future of science academies in Africa. It is offered as not just a “box-ticking” end of programme review, but as a constructive way forward for academies in any country, highlighting what has worked well and what less well, with a view to learning from these lessons to improve future work in this area. The programme has been particularly effective at building platforms for partnership and sharing good practice. One definition of capacity building that has been offered is “institutional performance improvement.” The review process has provided an opportunity for the Panel to take stock of Africa’s largest and most sustained programme for science academy strengthening. We hope that this review will be a useful tool for academies everywhere that wish to build their institutional performance and capacity. At the same time, it helps articulate the value of academies to national, regional and continental policymakers.
Final Evaluation of: Enabling African Scientific Communities to Provide Policy Advice in the Public Interest: An Eleven Year Program of Science Academy Capacity Building
In 2004 the US National Academy of Sciences was awarded a ten-year, $20 million grant by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to strengthen African science academies so that they could assume a more prominent role as independent national advisers on matters of science and health. The award had the following seven formal objectives:
This effort has become known as the African Science Academy Development Initiative (ASADI). ASADI is now an 11-year effort originally focused on building the advisory capacities of eight African academies of science including those in Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda, and South Africa, as well as the regional African Academy of Sciences. In year 1 the ASADI Board, after site visits to all eight academies and a review of submitted documentation, decided that the program should focus on capacity-building at three specific national academies. Reflecting their pre-existing state of development and the availability of national funds for sustainable support, a development effort of 6 years, 8 years, and 9 years respectively was envisioned for the academies in South Africa, Nigeria, and Uganda. In the first five years, the grant also provided modest support to the academies of Kenya, Cameroon, Senegal, and Ghana for strategic planning efforts and to host in rotation the annual meeting for the entire ASADI initiative. In 2011, the new Ethiopian Academy of Science was selected as a ninth partner.
The ASADI vision has been to develop African science academies so that they are regarded the preferred source of trusted, authoritative, apolitical, “home-grown” consensus scientific advice in each nation. In line with the program objectives and grant timeline, the Academy of Science of South Africa “graduated” from the ASADI program in February 2011 and the Nigerian Academy of Science “graduated” at the end of February 2013, both having achieved financial independence and other programmatic milestones.
In 2011 the project was given a one-year no cost extension until 2015 in order to more optimally expend available resources. This facilitated additional support to the academies in Ethiopia and Cameroon which became intense development partners that year.
The attached 2013 annual report to the Gates Foundation reflects further detail on the state of the project.
The final objective of the project is to obtain an independent, external evaluation to summarize lessons learned and to make recommendations for future capacity-building activities of this nature.
Statement of Task
The US National Academy of Sciences (USNAS) requests the InterAcademy Council to provide a rigorous final evaluation of the ASADI initiative for a sum not to exceed $250,000. The evaluation effort would be initiated by 1 October 2013 and be delivered at AMASA 10, the final annual meeting of the ASADI program which will take place in Uganda between November and December 2014.
The evaluator will conduct a summative evaluation of the program against the objectives and milestones established in the ASADI grant and annual reports. The evaluation will employ quantitative and qualitative approaches. The evaluation will focus on the output and outcomes of investments in the three original “intense” partners (Uganda, Nigeria, and South Africa) as well as the academies in Cameroon and Ethiopia which started to receive substantial investments in 2011. The evaluation should also assess the impact of the annual meetings as a vehicle for achieving the goals of the program. Lessons learned from the perspectives of the US NAS and its African partners concerning the capacity-building processes employed should also be captured.
The evaluation will employ a consensus committee process involving four to five individuals with substantial expertise in the provision by academies of independent, evidence-based advice; the African scientific-political context; the evaluation of development programs; the governance of science academies; and the administrative and financial management of small non-profit organizations in Africa. The composition of the committee will include representation from more developed regions of the world as well as Sub-Saharan Africa. Candidates will be assessed for potential conflicts of interest and substantial biases. It is expected that the process will be supported by competent staff, ideally familiar with science academies and their role.
The consensus committee mechanism will gather data through means including review of annual reports to the Gates Foundation and other historic documents, partner African academy publications produced during the period of the grant, a day of African academy orientation and initial data gathering at ASADI 9 (known publicly as AMASA 9 , which is scheduled for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 10-between 10 and 14 November 2013), a structure survey completed by the African academies, and two-person (committee member and/or staff) three day site visits to the US NAS and the five African primary partners for interviews with academicians, staff, national government officials, and other external stakeholders.
The site visits will assess outputs, outcomes, and impacts of overall academy operations, individual reports, document lessons learned concerning the capacity-building process, and capture relevant insights regarding the methods employed by the ASADI program, sustainability, and future initiatives to maintain and expand built capacity.