Perspectives from African conservation scientists in the diaspora

Dr. Kevin Njabo, Africa Director of the Center for Tropical Research, coauthored the article, “Challenges encountered when doing research back home: Perspectives from African conservation scientists in the diaspora,” published in the journal Conservation Science and Practice. Read the full article online.


African conservation scientists in the diaspora are still a largely untapped resource for conservation efforts in Africa. Institutions that harbor diaspora scientists from Africa should view their presence, motivation, and skills as an excellent opportunity to build strong bridges with the continent and undercut parachute science. Yet, parachute science is still the prominent way of doing conservation science in Africa and it can be difficult to escape, even for Africans working abroad and conducting research in their home countries. Espousing an alternative model to parachute science is possible, but it requires conscious effort and systemic changes at all scales (individual, departmental, universities). In this perspective, we describe six situations that help illuminate the layers of factors that diaspora African researchers must navigate while building cross-continental collaborations in the absence of adequate institutional support. They include the questioning of our “local-ness,” accusations of nepotism, over-explaining our intentions and dealing with the demand for “ground-breaking and globally relevant research.” We propose actions and best practices for harnessing the potential of diaspora faculty to build meaningful, equitable and long-term research collaborations with partners in Africa.