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African Neuroscience on the Global Stage: Nigeria as a Model

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      Abstract

      Several challenges contribute to Africa’s trailing position in the global production of knowledge. Decades of focused work through international and local programmes have thus far been unable to lift the continent onto its scientific feet. To learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of neuroscience research carried out on the continent today, that would enable the development of robust programmes focusing on specific needs, a strategy is required to extract information about specific contributions of African laboratories. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is among the top beneficiaries of international programmes promoting neuroscience research in Africa. Therefore, to establish and test a framework for evaluating neuroscience output from the continent, we here focussed on Nigeria’s neuroscience publications over the past two decades. Using PubMed key-word search and defined exclusion criteria, we extracted 572 neuroscience articles from Nigeria-based laboratories published between 1996 and 2017. Articles were automatically categorised into clinical and epidemiological studies (55.5%) or basic neuroscience (44.5%) using a support vector machine and decision tree algorithm. From here, we extracted each publication’s use of model species, methods, citations received and the publishing journal’s metrics.We find that over the 21 year period surveyed, only one Nigerian-led neuroscience paper was published in a “top-tier” international journal with an impact factor of >8. However, about half (55%) of PubMed indexed articles were published in reputable journals with an impact factor between 1-4. These publications primarily comprised basic (61%), rather than clinical and epidemiological studies (39%) which were instead mostly published in lower-ranking journals. Next, we find a worrying account of model species and research tools employed in Nigerian-based neuroscience. For example, no studies used genetically amenable model systems such as zebrafish, Drosophila, C.elegans, or transgenic mouse strains. Instead, popular model species were human (54%), rat (30%) and wild-type mice (11%). In line, research techniques employed were dominated by “basic” techniques such as Hematoxylin and Eosin stainings or classical behavioural analysis, with only 8% of studies using more modern techniques like PCR, Western blotting or forms of fluorescence microscopy. Perhaps as one consequence, even though medicinal plants have been used to treat diseases for decades by locals, and 41% of basic neuroscience studies investigated their potential utility in treating disease, none made it into local clinical research.Together, these findings highlight two clear access points for the support of Nigerian neuroscience in the future: Investment in the training and infrastructure in the use of more modern research techniques, and the widespread promotion of genetically amenable model species. Moreover, any such effort might consider specifically targeting existing basic over clinical or epidemiological research efforts. In time, it will be important to also assess the neuroscience output across the entire continent.

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      Journal
      Center for Open Science
      July 04 2018
      10.31730/osf.io/ahv2t
      © 2018

      http://www.apache.org/licenses/LICENSE-2.0.html

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      Self URI (article page): https://osf.io/ahv2t

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