By Ebele Orakpo
The Science Association of Nigeria, SAN, held its 60th anniversary and 52nd annual conference in Lagos, April 15-19, 2018 with the theme: Science & Technology in Emerging Smart Cities and Sustainable Development. The immediate past president of SAN, Professor Moji Bakare-Odunola, a Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry and lecturer at the University of Ilorin, spoke to Vanguard Learning on the impact of SAN in Nigeria and other issues. Excerpts:
THE beginning On December 15, 1958, a group of dedicated scientists in Nigeria met in Ibadan at an inaugural business meeting during which the Science Association of Nigeria was born. Since 1958, SAN has organised 52 annual national conferences. The last one was held in Lagos. During the conferences, eminent scholars from the academia and experts from research institutes and private sector are invited to present papers on various topics during plenary sessions. Parallel technical sessions are regular features during the conferences where researchers from mostly institutions of higher learning, present and discuss their research findings. Workshops are also organised on topical issues.
As far back as 40 years ago (February 13-14, 1978), SAN has organised a special Workshop on Popularisation of Science in Nigeria at the University of Lagos. Nine papers were presented by various experts from various science disciplines during the plenary sessions.
The papers formed the nucleus for discussion during the Group Discussion sessions which followed.
SAN’s impact: SAN has impacted Nigeria greatly. SAN gave birth to the Nigerian Academy of Science, NAS, and numerous science-based associations/societies in Nigeria that are actively involved in research and development activities. This year’s conference is another breakthrough in the life of SAN. It was the first time the association held the annual conference out of the academia. Lagos State, and Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency made the history.
It is hoped that this detour from routine will improve the relationship between policymakers and scientists. It will also develop the scientists outside the academia in an unquantifiable manner.
No less important is the anticipated boost for the exposure of students (Industrial training, equipment etc) as well as the enhancement of taking the gown to town. SAN has also been conscious of the need to generate and sustain interest in science and science practice. SAN uses its programme, Popularisation of Science, to organise inter-zone quiz and symposium competition with awards given to the three best competitors. SAN is also an association that unites all scientists in Nigeria in public, private or academia for the development of Science and Technology.
SAN working with industry to improve economy
SAN is working with the industry to improve the Nigerian economy but not to our satisfaction yet. There is collaboration between industry and researchers in Nigeria. On this note, I can say SAN has played active roles in facilitating industry/researchers collaboration and in bridging the wide gap hitherto existing between industry and researchers. For example, E- TERRA Technologies presented a paper during the opening ceremony of the 52nd annual Conference. SAN is also reaching out to industries for cooperate membership in order to institute collaborative work.
SAN is improving on Town/Gown collaboration, taking the conference out of academia is one of the factors to be used in bridging the gap. Collaboration with scientists in public and private sectors is another factor.
From the budgetary allocations by both federal and state governments and to the satisfaction of SAN, government is not doing enough. This is because research is capital-intensive, i.e. much funds must be expended in funding research and developing the products obtained. To me, private sector can come in by providing the necessary funds required by our researchers in research institutes, universities and polytechnics.