SCIENTOMETRICS AND STI INDICATORS AS AN OPTION FOR IMPROVING SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA

By Yussuf  Utieyineshola

Various reports have pointed out on the critical role that Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) plays in development. The 2005 World Summit in its outcome document titled “Science and Technology for Development” emphasized on the need to build STI systems for emplacing sustainable development.

Similar to this report were the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development Report (2004) which sought to identify approaches for the effective promotion and the use of science and technology to meet development goals; the World Bank report of 2003 titled “Strategic Approaches to Science and Technology in Development” which suggested that development will not be possible without science and technology. Furthermore, The UN Millennium Project 2005 tagged “Innovation: Applying Knowledge in Development” also posited that developing countries must have the courage to break with traditional approaches and explore the role of STI in their development strategies.

Incidentally, the contributory role of STI to development cannot be determined if it is not measureable. Scientometric indicator is one of the most efficient and objective methods of assessing research and innovation performance. Scientometric analysis is the quantitative study of the innovation system based mainly on bibliometric and patent indicators.

In bibliometrics, the number of publications in a field is considered as an indicator of research activity while in patent analysis the number of patents awarded to an institution or a country is used as an indicator of technological activity.

Patent indicators within the Science and Technology (S&T) context are used to measure inventive performance, diffusion of knowledge and internationalization of innovative activities across countries, firms, industries, technology areas, etc. The philosophy underlying the use of bibliometric indicators as performance measures has been summarized in De Solla Price’s statement that “for those who are working at the research front, publication is not just an indicator but, in a very strong sense, the end product of their creative effort”.

Statistics on the world share of publications by different regions show that Africa produced only about 68,945 publications between the periods of 2000-2004 which is 1.8% of the World’s publications. India (Asia) produced 2.4% and Latin America 3.5% of the World’s research publications.

Research in Africa is concentrated mainly in two countries; South Africa and Egypt. These two countries produced just above 50% of the Continent’s publications. Examination of the Continent’s inventive profile, as manifested in patents, indicates that Africa produces less than one thousand of the world’s inventions. About 88% of the Continent’s inventive activity is concentrated in South Africa.

Monitoring and evaluating the various facets of the scientific sector is a necessary and integral tool needed for STI policy to deliver its role to the development of any society. African leaders and policy makers must appreciate the need for encouraging and supporting its institutions saddled with the responsibility of monitoring the performance of STI through identified indicators as practiced in the developed countries. They must be made to realize that STI indicators have become essential tools for assessing knowledge capacity in a country or region and as evidence for setting policy actions.

In order to project African countries to the top table in terms of scientific and technological development, researchers from various countries in the continent must ensure that proper documentation of their S&T activities are monitored and evaluated. They must also realize that publishing and patenting  scientific papers or results is not enough but that ranking of their scientific publications, which is a component of STI Indicator, will only be recognised if they are well indexed and recognized in global databases such as; S&T Data Centre of UNESCO Institute for Statistics (www.uis.unesco.org/ScienceTechnology/); OECD Science, Technology and R&D Statistics (http://www.oecd.org/sti/); Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI) (www.asti.cgiar.org); African Science, Technology & Innovation Indicators Initiative (ASTII) (http://www.nepadst. org/astii/index.shtml); or in web-based S&T indicators like; Webometrics Ranking of World Universities (http://www.webometrics.info); and the WISER Project (Web Indicators for Science, Technology and Innovation Research) (http://www. wiserweb.org and http://www.webindicators.org).