While on my quest for an understanding of the medical research in Nigeria, I documented my findings and shared the challenges. Looking beyond all that, I have found some reason to smile. In the face of these difficulties, there is some hope for the field.
From the work on Lassa fever at Redeemer’s University to the work on tropical health at the University College Hospital, Ibadan; All over the country, Nigerian researchers are providing answers to some of our questions in health. They have found a way to make things work.
There is a unanimous conclusion that the Federal Government should increase funding. However, some initiatives if sustained are paving way for more to be done. Recently, Professor Oye Ibidapo-Obe gave an account of a US$5-million research grant given to the Nigerian Academy of Science (NAS) by the Federal Government.
In 2011, The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) was introduced to distribute public funding for infrastructure in the nation’s universities, and for research through competitive grants. In 2016, the Government also announced a ₦ 3 Billion National Research Grant.
Grants from donors like the World Health Organisation (WHO), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), African Development Bank and Non-Governmental Organisations like the MacArthur Foundation continually finance research works around the country. Either to set up infrastructure or carry out a particular research, donor funds are a big part of research in Nigeria.
In a paper, Banji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka and Bolade Abiola Adewale evaluated University collaboration in Nigeria. They stated that such collaborations propel innovation. While more collaboration will help the system, the synergies that have been formed and are forming are providing faculty members and students as well as the institutions with new insights on getting results.
Collaborations between Nigerian institutions and those in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the rest Europe as well as with Asian institutions have increased. We now have more exchange of students and faculty members as well as training and fellowships.
There are more visiting faculty members and joint research works. Some partnerships even run joint degree programs. Nigerians in the diaspora now run research with a focus on questions in Nigeria. All of these are laudable and worth celebrating, they are yielding new innovations and providing a new way out around the country.
Translational research applies findings from basic science to enhance human health and well-being. In a medical research context, it aims to “translate” findings in fundamental research into medical practice and meaningful health outcomes.
This explores collaboration between and among teams to ensure that findings translate to better health in the populace. To put this in perspective, translational research is initiating discussions and influencing policies based on a finding to lead to better health.
Research findings are not accidental, they are scientific data collected from carefully thought and designed experiments with the motive to answer a particular question. There have been more done in this respective. We now have more synergies between our teaching hospitals and institutions. We now have a synergy between the academia and the community.
My first time of hearing about this was when President John Dramani Mahama talked about ‘the town’ and ‘the gown’ at my convocation. Since then, I have heard more and witnessed it put to practice. This should be encouraged and further exploited.
This is great news as it means that data is put to better use aside from the publications and presentations as well as the personal glorification that follows scientific discoveries. It also means that every stakeholder (health care practitioner, policy makers and the government) can use this data to ensure better health for all.
We are yet to enjoy all the advancements in Technology like some countries do. While this poses a serious limitation, Scientists in Nigeria have devised means to ensure their experiments sail through. We have also had more research at the molecular level. This can be attributed to some laboratory in the country that now provide services that are before now can only be done outside the country.
From the new cancer research and training center of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, the Bioscience Unit at IITA to the new laboratories in our institutions, technology is helping scientists do more than before. With new infrastructures – governmental and non-governmental, we now have new choices. All of these reduce the burden of research and will help ensure quality, efficiency and reproducibility.
While we anticipate a better world of Medical Research in Nigeria, researchers should focus on using the resources available judiciously and sustainably. They need to get out; apply for grants, make good use of the limited source, work on forming synergies and learning, open their minds to advancement in technology as well as believe in translational science. The health and betterment of the community should be the ultimate.