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Journal ArticleDOI

A scientometric assessment of the Southern Africa Development Community: science in the tip of Africa

22 Jun 2010-Scientometrics (Springer Netherlands)-Vol. 85, Iss: 1, pp 145-154

TL;DR: It is expressed concern that the current research infrastructures are inadequate to assist in reaching the objectives developed in the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan of the Community.

AbstractThis article reports the results of a scientometric assessment of the Southern Africa Development Community countries. The National Science Indicators database of Thomson-Reuters and the online ISI Web of Knowledge are utilized in order to identify the number of publications of the 15 countries over a period of 15 years; the activity and relative impact indicators of 22 scientific disciplines for each country and their collaborative patterns. It is identified that South Africa with 19% of the population in the region is responsible for 60% of the regional GDP and 79% of the regions publications. All countries tend to have the same focus in their disciplinary priorities and underemphasize disciplines such as engineering, materials science and molecular biology. It is expressed concern that the current research infrastructures are inadequate to assist in reaching the objectives developed in the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan of the Community.

Topics: Population (53%), Scientometrics (51%)

Summary (1 min read)

Introduction

  • The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has been established in 1992 under Article 2 of the SADC Treaty.
  • The SADC protocol on Science Technology and Innovation is a legally binding document aimed at regulating collaborative initiatives within the SADC region to support the implementation of the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan and Africa’s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action.
  • Establishment of collaborative regional R&D programmes in priority areas 4. Promotion of the value and application of IKS & technologies 5. Promotion of technology transfer and innovation 6.
  • The article aims to outline trends in the research outputs of the fifteen countries; to identify their scientific specialisation and to report their collaborative patterns.

Methodology and Data

  • Scientometric analysis is one of the most efficient and objective methods of assessing scientific performance.
  • The philosophy underlying the use of scientometric 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.” (DE SOLLA PRICE, 1975).
  • There are limited scientometric studies investigating science in the African continent and even fewer which focus exclusively in the continent.
  • The most often used databases for such analyses are the citation indices of Thomson Reuters (formerly known as those of the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI)).
  • An activity index larger than one reflects higher than average effort dedicated to the field and vice versa.

Results: SADCs Scientific Performance

  • The small output of the SADC countries becomes profound if the authors take into account that the University of Pretoria in South Africa is producing approximately 1000 publications per year.
  • Probably the most important issue that should be emphasised is that it is doubtful that the SADC countries will be able to meet the “Millennium Development Goals” (MDG) with the existing research infrastructure.
  • Portugal appears twice in the list, in collaboration with Angola and Mozambique.
  • It should be emphasised that the major collaboration between Germany and South Africa and Germany and Namibia is in the field of space science.

Conclusion

  • The objective of this article is to assess the state of science in the fifteen Southern Africa Development Community countries.
  • South Africa produces only 0.55% of the world’s scientific literature.
  • Identification of the research emphasis of the Community shows an emphasis on traditional research areas (agriculture, plant and animal sciences etc).
  • There is an underemphasis in scientific areas promising to support innovation such as engineering, material sciences and molecular biology.

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1
A Scientometric Assessment of the Southern Africa Development
Community – Science in the Tip of Africa
Pouris Anastassios
1
Abstract
This article reports the results of a scientometric assessment of the Southern Africa
Development Community countries. The National Science Indicators database of
Thomson- Reuters and the online ISI Web of Knowledge are utilized in order to identify
the number of publications of the 15 countries over a period of 15 years; the activity and
relative impact indicators of 22 scientific disciplines for each country and their
collaborative patterns. It is identified that South Africa with 19% of the population in the
region is responsible for 60% of the regional GDP and 79% of the regions publications.
All countries tend to have the same focus in their disciplinary priorities and
underemphasize disciplines such as engineering, materials science and molecular biology.
It is expressed concern that the current research infrastructures are inadequate to assist in
reaching the objectives developed in the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan
of the community.
Keywords: scientometrics, assessment, SADC, Southern Africa, research
Introduction
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has been established in 1992 under
Article 2 of the SADC Treaty. The SADC vision is one of a common future, within a regional
community that will ensure economic well-being, improvement of the standards of living and
quality of life, freedom and social justice; peace and security for the peoples of Southern Africa.
The community is currently consists of 15 member countries: Angola, Botswana, the Democratic
Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles,
South Africa, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Table 1: Vital Statistics: SADC 2008
Country Population GDP (PPP US$ GDP /per
1
Institute for Technological Innovation, University of Pretoria, South Africa;
e-mail: Anastassios. Pouris@up.ac.za

2
billions) Capita (US$)
Angola 12,799,293 110.30 8.800
Botswana 1,990,876 27.06 13.900
DC Congo 68,692,542 20.64 300
Lesotho 2,130,819 3.29 1500
Malawi 14,268,711 11.81 800
Mauritius 1,284,264 15.27 12.000
Mozambique 21,669,278 18.94 900
Namibia 2,108,665 13.25 6300
S Africa 49,052,489 491.00 10.100
Swaziland 1,123,913 5.70 5100
Tanzania 41,048,532 54.25 1300
Zambia 11,862,740 17.5 1500
Zimbabwe 11,392,629 1.92 200
Madagascar 20,653,556 20.13 1000
Seychelles 87,476 1.715 19,800
Table 1 shows the vital statistics of the SADC countries. DC Congo has the biggest population
(exceeding 68 million) followed by South Africa and Tanzania. In terms of GDP South Africa is the
largest economy followed by Angola (less than one fourth in size). Interestingly though
Seychelles, Mauritius and Botswana are richer than South Africa in terms of GDP per capita.
The member states aim to achieve regional economic integration and they have established the
following milestones: the SADC Free Trade Area was launched on August 17, 2008 at Sandton,
South Africa; the Customs Union (CU) is planned to be established by 2010, the Common Market
(CM) by 2015, Monetary Union (MU) by 2016 and the Single Currency by 2018.
Science and technology are recognised as important components in achieving the regional
objectives (SADC Treaty 5(2)(f)) and they are overseen by the
Southern African Minister’s
Council on Science and Technology.
In 2007 the SADC Ministers of Science and Technology officially adopted the SADC
protocol on Science, Technology and Innovation in Pretoria.
The SADC protocol on Science Technology and Innovation is a legally binding
document aimed at regulating collaborative initiatives within the SADC region to support
the implementation of the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan
(RISDP) and Africa’s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action.
In December 2008 the SADC Ministers endorsed the development of a science,
technology and innovation strategic plan. The objectives of the plan (to be completed by
the end of 2009) are:
1.” Regional and legal institutional mechanisms to strengthen cooperation

3
2. Promotion of partnerships for investment in R&D and innovation within the region
3. Establishment of collaborative regional R&D programmes in priority areas
4. Promotion of the value and application of IKS & technologies
5. Promotion of technology transfer and innovation
6. Promotion of public awareness of and value in STI
7. Development and promotion of regional STI capacity” (Mpanza 2009)
The identified areas of priority are: energy, water and agriculture technologies; materials
science, manufacturing and laser technologies; biotechnology and indigenous knowledge
systems and ICT and space science technologies (earth observation)
In the above context this article reports the results of an investigation to assess the state of
science in the fifteen SADC countries. The article aims to outline trends in the research
outputs of the fifteen countries; to identify their scientific specialisation and to report
their collaborative patterns. The results of the investigation could be used as benchmarks
for identifying the effectiveness of the Community efforts to promote the field of science.
The remainder of the article is organised as follows: the methodology section discusses
the databases used for the study and the indicators utilised. The section “Results: SADCs
Scientific Performance” outlines the results of the investigation and elaborates on the
findings and the related policy implications. The article ends with a “conclusions”
section.
Methodology and Data
Scientometric analysis is one of the most efficient and objective methods of assessing
scientific performance. Scientometric analysis, the quantitative study of the innovation
systems, is based mainly on the number of publications and citations. The number of
publications in a field is considered an indicator of research activity and the number of
citations an indicator of impact. An additional advantage of the use of number of
publications is that they can be considered proxies of the scientific manpower available
(SCHUBERT ET AL 1986) in a particular region or country. The latter is particularly
useful for countries which do not collect research manpower statistics.
The philosophy underlying the use of scientometric 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.” (DE SOLLA PRICE, 1975).

4
Even though scientometric studies are not without their critics ( ROLAND , 2007;
LEYDESDORFF, 2008) the field of scientometrics is currently well established
internationally. Investigators are using scientometric techniques to undertake cross
country comparisons ( KING, 2004, POURIS ET AL 2009); in order to assess
disciplinary strengths and weakness (MOLATUDI ET AL 2006) ; to confirm theories
(SCHUBERT et al forthcoming, LUBANGO ET AL., 2007) and others.
There are limited scientometric studies investigating science in the African continent and
even fewer which focus exclusively in the continent. Examples include SHRUM 1997,
NARVAEZ-BERTHELEMOT ET AL 2002; INGWERSEN et al 2004; TIJSSEN 2007,
POURIS 2009 and others. Most of these studies focus in the prolific producers in the
Continent and rarely examine science in the smaller countries in the region.
The most often used databases for such analyses are the citation indices of Thomson
Reuters (formerly known as those of the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI)). “These
databases currently provide the best source of information to identify the basic research
activity across all countries and fields of science” (TIJSSEN 2007). The citation indices
(science citation index expanded; social science citation index and arts and humanities
citation index) cover the scientific literature in the most important 10 000 journals in the
world. The main advantages of the Thomson-Reuters databases are that they provide all
the names and addresses of authors so searches can identify all authors from a particular
country or institution and they provide citation related information.
For this investigation we are using the National Science Indicators database. In the
National Science Indicators database, Thomson- Reuters counts articles, notes, reviews
and proceeding papers, but not other types of items and journal marginalia such as
editorials, letters, corrections, and abstracts and summarizes a number of papers and
citations according to country and scientific discipline per year. A paper is attributed to a
country if the paper carries at least one author address of that country. We also utilize the
online ISI Web of Knowledge in order to identify collaborative patterns among the
SADC countries.
For the assessment of scientific fields we utilize the activity index and the relative
citation impact indicator. The activity index has been suggested by Frame (1977) and has
been elaborated by Schubert et al (1996). It characterizes the relative research effort a
country devotes to a given field. It is defined as the ratio of the country’s share in the
world’s publications output in a given field to the country’s share in the world’s
publication output in all science fields. An activity index equal to one indicates that the
country’s research effort in the particular field corresponds exactly to the world average.
An activity index larger than one reflects higher than average effort dedicated to the field
and vice versa. The relative citation impact indicators is defined as the ratio of the
citation impact (number of citations received per paper published) for the country in a
particular field to the citation impact for the field as a whole worldwide.

5
Results: SADCs Scientific Performance
Table 2 shows the number of publications in the database from the different SADC
countries for three 5 year periods-1994-1998; 1999-2003 and 2004-2008. With the
exemptions of Zimbabwe and Democratic Republic of Congo, all countries exhibit a
growth in their number of publications from period to period. The war in DRC and the
socioeconomic instability in Zimbabwe are reflected in their research output.
Mozambique and Seychelles exhibit the highest growth (79% and 78% respectively)
among the SADC countries for the period from 1999-03 to 2004-2008 – albeit from a
small base. Zimbabwe’s research output exhibits a contraction during the period.
Furthermore, the table shows that only South Africa produces an “adequate” number of
research publications. Adequacy in this context should be linked to the minimum number
of publishing researchers needed in order to support some presence in a scientific
speciality.
Table 2: Number of SADC publications: three 5-year periods
South Africa is producing almost 14 times more publications than the second country in
the list-Tanzania. The small output of the SADC countries becomes profound if we take
into account that the University of Pretoria in South Africa is producing approximately
1000 publications per year.
Countries 94-98 99-03 04-08
Angola 26 56 69
Botswana 319 596 816
DR Congo 208 96 118
Lesotho 31 38 58
Madagascar 260 388 652
Malawi 405 538 759
Mauritius 99 211 251
Mozambique 115 185 331
Namibia 179 225 360
Seychelles 46 49 87
South Africa 18,099 19,785 27,008
Swaziland 54 72 83
Tanzania 1,041 1,200 1,943
Zambia 338 398 583
Zimbabwe 1,128 1,165 1,027

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