Challenges facing young African scientists in their research careers: A qualitative exploratory study
Background: Africa accounts for 14% of world’s population, and the economies of most African countries are considered to be growing, but this is not reflected in the amount of research published by Africans. This study aimed at identifying the challenges that young African scientists face in their career development.
Methods: This was a qualitative exploratory study involving young researchers who attended the Teaching and Research in Natural Sciences for Development (TReND) in Africa scientific writing and communication workshop, which was held in Malawi in September 2015. A semi-structured questionnaire was sent to all workshop participants who consented to taking part in the survey. In total, 28 questionnaires were sent via email and 15 were returned, representing a response rate of 53.6%. Data were analysed using thematic analysis.
Results: Young Africans develop their research interests various ways. The most common career-promoting factors identified by the study participants included formal classroom learning, aspirations to attain academic qualifications, work satisfaction, and the desire to fulfill parents’ dreams. Challenges cited by survey respondents included a lack of mentorship, funds, and research and writing skills. Lack of interest in research by policymakers, lack of motivation by peers, and heavy workload (leaving little time for research) were also reported as challenges. Respondents suggested that grants specifically targeting young scientists would be beneficial. Participants also urged for the establishment of mentorship programmes, increasing motivation for research, and more frequent training opportunities.
Conclusions: There is need for improved funding for institutional and research network strengthening in Africa, with particular attention given to expanding opportunities for young researchers.