African popular science cuts off “custom therapy”

In the stereotype of many people, the African continent is a scientifically backward region, and African-American scientists seem to be unheard of. But in fact, the number of scientific research talents in African countries and people of African descent is increasing day by day, and they have emerged in various disciplines.

When Trump and Fauci visited the vaccine laboratory earlier, Corbett, a female immunologist of African descent, appeared in the photos from time to time. She is the team leader of Moderna vaccine research and development, shouldering the important task of mRNA vaccine.

The female scientist Tybelo Niocon lives in South Africa and is an expert in the use of “photodynamic therapy” to accurately destroy cancer cells. Her research results have won her world-class praise. As a child, she used to herd sheep in Lesotho, but now she has become a well-known scientist.

Sylvester J. Gates of Brown University will be the president of the American Physical Society this year. In the study of “string theory” and “supersymmetry” in theoretical physics, there is an “Adinkra” diagram, whose name comes from a traditional symbol in Ghana, Africa, and is his invention.

Scott Edwards is a Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. Through molecular biology research on the evolutionary path from dinosaurs to birds, he proved that dinosaurs once wore feathers like birds.

The ability of African-American scientists has long been proven by facts, but African countries and African-American populations do lack education and scientific research resources. Relevant research data shows that Africa suffers from 20% of the world’s diseases, but medical resources are only 1% of the global population; the proportion of scientific researchers in African countries to the population is only 1/20 of that of the United Kingdom and the United States, and the poorest countries are only about 1/ 100.

If you read the news of African countries, it is not difficult to read some terrible “custom remedies”, such as wizards killing people and taking their organs to make medicinal materials or amulets, or priests and politicians claiming that as long as the “Holy Spirit is filled” they can resist the new crown and use insecticides. Spray believers, drink gasoline for believers to cure diseases, etc. Many people lack trust in science, especially people in Central Africa. Al Jazeera has reported that young people who do not believe in religion there are sent to a mental hospital by their parents or forced to be “exorcized”.

It’s not difficult to understand these conditions. Just think about China in the late Qing Dynasty and the Republic of China. On the one hand, there were outstanding scientists such as Su Buqing, Shu Xingbei, Bingzhi, and Wu Liande. At the same time, there were still people who used human blood steamed buns and human organs as medicinal materials in Lu Xun’s works. It can be said that African countries are also in a similar historical situation.

It is necessary to promote “science popularization” in Asian, African and Latin American countries, but “science popularization” cannot just unilaterally “promote popularization.” Now, more popular are “science communication” and “citizen participation in science”, as well as the use of new media. For example, there are apps in Congo and Uganda that specialize in monitoring snails spreading schistosomes, and South Africa has a “bird map” app for bird observation, mobilizing a large number of people to use the software to participate in wild conservation.

Africa currently has many online university MOOC platforms in the field of education and scientific research, as well as open paper libraries such as AfricaArxiv. Marin Kola, the former CEO of the well-known open thesis network PLOS, joined the African Academy of Sciences in 2017 and is responsible for the science communication department. She expects Africa to “overtake in corners” through the online academic platform.

Scientists who devote a lot of energy to learning modern scientific vocabulary can easily lose their empathy for the local traditional society, and even take a condescending attitude towards the people. Therefore, special “science communication” emphasizes understanding the people’s cognitive conditions, moral concepts, language terms, and knowledge reserves, and adjusts the way of knowledge dissemination for the audience, rather than just pile up difficult technical terms.

The “African Science Literacy Network” in Nigeria is carried out through close cooperation between journalists and scientists. On the other hand, many Islamic scholars and Christian priests take the initiative to spread scientific knowledge and build bridges for religious believers to understand science.