This project aims to expand our knowledge on research funders as central role players in the development of science systems across Africa. In order to achieve this, we monitor the presence of research funding and study the interactions, contributions and synergies between research funders from within and outside the continent. Working across research fields and countries allows us to identify potential for collaboration and highlight under-funded areas.
By using bibliometric tools such as funding acknowledgments indexed in the Web of Science database, we have opened up new ways of studying the contributions of funding organisations towards the creation of new scientific knowledge. We are also working towards developing new indicators based on these funding acknowledgements in scientific publications. Furthermore, we are testing the validity and accuracy of these new bibliometric measures by linking data on funding acknowledgments with actual research funding data.
The project, involving collaboration with scholars from the Université de Montréal (Canada), has disentangled the main boundaries and possibilities of the funding-acknowledgement information indexed by the Web of Science, showing that, at least for the time being, this information is reliable only from 2009 onwards and for the disciplines covered in the Science Citation Index Expanded.
Also, an extensive study of the presence of funding support across African publications has been carried out for the period 2009 – 2014. Initial results show a higher citation impact of publications that present funding acknowledgments, and those publications are also produced by higher levels of international collaborations. The South African National Research Foundation (NRF) is the strongest funder on the continent, followed by international funders, including the European Union, the National Institutes of Health and the Wellcome Trust, among others. Analysis by discipline shows that the highest number of publications that acknowledge funding is found in the health and agricultural sciences.