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Talking Techniques | Helicopter research and the challenges and misconceptions of research in Africa

In this episode of Talking Techniques, BioTechniques Digital Editor Tristan Free speaks to three scientists each involved in the research landscape in Africa. The episode explores the challenges faced by researchers in Africa, both internally and from the rest of the scientific community. These include issues such as ‘helicopter research’ or ‘research tourism’, educating politicians on the importance of basic research and ensuring African researchers are represented at the forefront of life science research.

Firstly Laura Boykin, CEO of the Cassava Virus Action Project (pictured right), discusses the role of foreign researchers in Africa and how, too often, this role becomes unethical and unhelpful. Delving into the many vices of helicopter research and the practice’s many negative consequences Laura lays out some clear examples of helicopter research and outlines some of the ways we can begin to address the issue.

Nathasia Muwanigwa, Founder of the site Visibility STEM Africa (pictured left), speaks about the experience of being an African researcher in Europe and the need to amplify the voices of African researchers. Nathasia also talks about the perception of African research around the world and the issues that researchers face in getting cited and published in high impact journals.

Providing the perspective of researchers and scientists in Africa Aminu Yakubu, the Vice President of Research Planning and Ethics at 54gene (Pictured right), discusses the gap in genomic data from Africa and its impact on the development of medicines. He also explores the need to establish an equitable playing field for African scientists and the importance of improving the regulation of genetics research on the continent.



  • Laura Boykin: 00:00-16:50
  • Nathasia Muwanigwa: 16:50-35:30
  • Aminu Yakubu: 35:30-50:45
  • The greatest challenge for research in Africa: 50:45-64:42