The ‘Process Map’: guiding scientific collaboration

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“the substantive findings of science are a product of social collaboration and are assigned to the community…The scientist’s claim to ‘his’ intellectual ‘property’ is limited to that of recognition and esteem…” proclaimed the American historian and socialist Robert K. Merton in 1942. He believed science to be a ‘communist activity’ and an institution where researchers share their work with their community for the common good.

This view that progress in science is reached via cooperation and collaboration between individual scientists, and between generations of scientists, is an idealistic outlook of an institution where competition thrives.

Unfortunately, competiveness is an inherent nature in science. Scientists are set up to fiercely battle it out for limited funding and grants. Dr Trudie Lang, Director …

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Ebola and the beginnings of a tragic saga

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JP Chippaux

Panic; major social, economic and political disruptions; border closures and violent protests; this summarizes the state of affairs in the three countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where the Ebola epidemic is raging.

The current number of Ebola cases far surpasses the total number of cases reported for all previous Ebola outbreaks combined and it continues to rise. A review, recently published in Journal of Venomous Animals and Toxins including Tropical Diseases, traces the history and progress of Ebola epidemics starting from the very first outbreak in 1976. Researcher and guest blogger, Jean-Philippe Chippaux, explains why the spread of the epidemic is slow in the beginning, and explosive and hard to control thereafter.

The West African epidemic began in …

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Family Farming: “Feeding the world, caring for the earth”

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Food insecurity affects one billion people around the world, with millions suffering from chronic hunger and under-nourishment. Urban societies often enjoy ease of access to worldly foods and the luxury to feast on meals of their choice, but if attitudes do not change, and action is not taken, everyone could be eating a limited diet. Global supply lines will become vulnerable as a direct result of human-induced climate change and we will bear witness to a decline in local production and reduced food imports.  

Today is World Food Day, a day to commemorate the founding of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in 1945. The UN General Assembly has designated 2014 “International Year of Family Farming.” This is to

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The Tef genome: deciphering one of Ethiopia’s key crops

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Tef

Sequencing of the genomes of agriculturally important grasses such as maize (Zea mays) and sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) has allowed us to gain important insights into the evolution and abiotic stress response of these plants.

In recent years there has been an increased focus on applying these advances to more localized crops, which often constitute an important nutritional resource in low-income countries. In Ethiopia Eragrostis tef (Tef), a grass native to the Ethiopian and Eritrean highlands, is a staple crop and accounts for approximately a quarter of cereal production.

Tef has a number of properties that makes it attractive for farmers in Ethiopia. The crop grows well in both arid and water-logged areas and it is relatively …

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The meaning of ‘impact’: prestige or relevance for developing world research?

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EveGray

This is a guest post by Eve Gray. Once an academic publisher in Cape Town, she went on to be a publishing strategy consultant before becoming a researcher on open access scholarly communications at the Centre for Innovation in Teaching and Learning and the IP Law Unit at UCT. To mark the release of the 2014 Impact Factor Report she debates the value impact factors serve for the developing world.  

The impact factor under fire

The release of the 2014 Impact Factor Report was being awaited, as usual, with some anticipation by journal publishers and researchers to see who is in and who is out in this particular club this year. Yet this comes at a time when there is …

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Hepatitis E-A virus with two faces

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Hep E-the 2 faces

The fierce heat of the sun was burning. Aba wiped the sweat from her brow as she trudged through the farm entrance and emptied the cocoa beans into the designated crate. Hot and parched from carrying the heavy load. She knelt by a small cloudy pond. Not fussed by its murky appearance she cradled her hands together and slurped unceremoniously.

In the weeks that followed, Aba’s health slowly deteriorated. She was tired, her body ached and her abdomen was tender. As she hacked at the cocoa pods, she had to double over intermittently, trying to ease the storm that was brewing in her stomach. It was releasing one anguishing blow after the other. The pain would eventually subside; it was …

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Open access and the role of the librarian

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University of Nairobi by Kenyaverification

The University of Nairobi is the oldest university in Kenya and is a keen supporter of open access. Alongside its open access policy it is a BioMed Central Foundation Member and operates an institutional repository. We talked to Agatha N. Kabugu, Deputy Director, and Milkah Gikunju, Repository Administrator of the University of Nairobi Library about the role of the librarian in the 21st century, research at the University of Nairobi and open access.

How do you feel the role of librarian is changing?

The librarian’s role has changed from being a passive purveyor of information to an active participant in the research and scholarly communication cycle. The digital era has brought with it new challenges …

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Quality of anti-malarials is on the radar

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Quality vs. Fraud

New open access database puts quality of anti-malarials on the map

Everyone has the right to safe, affordable, effective, and quality medicines. However, many are being denied this right. Over the last decade there has been a renewed focus on the importance of drug quality. Government bodies have been found guilty of slacking in their obligations to human rights policy.

Quality control has been slipping off the agenda. Nearly a third of antimalarial medicines have failed quality tests due to poor packaging and incorrect levels of the active ingredients. A review of drug analyses, published in Malaria Journal, concludes that the distribution of falsified and substandard medicines threatens lives, putting patients’ health at risk and increasing the likelihood …

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Malaria or anemia? The challenge of diagnosis

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Malaria_anaemia_diagnostic_challenge

A mother cradles her child. Her son has developed a fever. His blanket is damp from heavy sweating. He lets out a piercing scream, the headaches have started again. She strokes his forehead and rocks him gently. “He’s been sick?” the doctor asks. The mother nods. All the symptoms point to malaria. A simple test could confirm the doctor’s prognosis. However, the clinic’s resources are limited, no microscope and no diagnostic tests. He has to act on observations alone and writes out a prescription for anti-malarial drugs.

Although hypothetical, this is a common scenario in Sub-Saharan Africa, where poor resources and inadequate laboratories are detrimental to public health. There are two commonly used methods for malaria diagnosis: laboratory diagnostic methods …

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Why I study malaria: Dr Francis Ndungu on research, working in Kenya and open access

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Francis Ndungu

To mark World Malaria Day we spoke with Dr Francis Ndungu about his research into malaria immunity. Dr Ndungu completed his PhD at the National Institute for Medical Research before returning to Kenya where he is currently a Senior Research Scientist at the KEMRI/Wellcome Trust Research Programme.

Why did you choose to study malaria?

My interest in how humans develop immunity to malaria started during my undergraduate studies at Kenyatta University, Nairobi. We visited the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme (KWTRP) in Kilifi for an academic field trip and whilst there, the Director of KWTRP, Prof Kevin Marsh, who went on to become my mentor, gave us a lecture on ‘the immunology of malaria’.

It became …

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