Introducing TReND in Africa
In this article we explore TReND in Africa. A global, volunteer-run non-governmental organisation (NGO), dedicated to promoting scientific research and education in the African continent. At Scientifica, we are proud supporters of TReND in Africa. Our donated equipment has been used in different labs in Africa during TReND courses and workshops.
By Samyra Cury Salek
TReND in Africa is a global, volunteer-run NGO dedicated to promoting scientific research and education in the African continent. It was founded in 2011 by Dr. Lucia Prieto, The Crick Institute, and Prof. Dr. Tom Baden, University of Sussex, in collaboration with Prof Sadiq Yusuf of Kampala International University, Uganda. TReND activities are entirely run by scientist-volunteers, currently 50 on 4 different continents. The organisation entertains active collaborations with 20 partner universities in over 10 African countries, which range from South Africa (south) to Egypt (north) and from Kenya (east) to Nigeria (west). In 2019, TReND became a registered UK charity based inside the University of Sussex in Brighton.
TReND is supported financially and otherwise by a large number of both academic and corporate organizations including (but not limited to), International Brain Research Organization, The American Physiological Society, Lindau Nobel Laureate meetings, VolkswagenStiftung, The Company of Biologists, Cambridge in Africa, Cambridge Neuroscience, Planet Earth Institute and the Swiss Society for Neuroscience. The organisation is also supported and have established collaborations with several universities and research institutes outside Africa, including HHMI Janelia Research Campus, University of Lausanne, University of Cambridge, University of Tuebingen, and the University of Sussex. In addition, other institutions have helped sporadically.
Five key activities and accomplishments
1) On-site multi-week top-level science courses (Neuroscience, Bioinformatics, Molecular Biology, Open Hardware, Scientific writing), taught by worldwide experts in each field. To date, about one dozen such courses have been held in Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Malawi, South Africa, and Kenya, providing full scholarships to attend to scientists from 20 different African countries.
Launched in 2021, Online Collaboration Program: We have created a network of experts that can help African scientists to develop their desired projects through online collaboration, bypassing the mobility restrictions caused by the current pandemic.
2) Infrastructural support by collecting used lab equipment in the West and shipping it to their African partners. For example, the organisation has shipped confocal microscopes to Kenya and Tanzania – as far as they know the only such microscopes on the continent outside of South Africa. This year, they launched the TReND Lab at Yobe University in Nigeria. Led by Dr. Maumoud Maine, TReND has gathered and donated lab equipment that will be available to alumni and course organizers. (Scientifica has been a great partner donating multiple types of equipment that will be used in different labs in Africa, during TReND courses and workshops.)
3) 3D print your lab equipment. TReND promotes the use of 3D printed lab equipment and basic electronics as means to do science with limited resources. They also develop such Open Labware in-house and provide the plans freely on the internet. TReND invented the term Open Labware in their recent publication on the subject, which to date, has been accessed more than 30,000 times (ranked in 99th percentile for public engagement of all-time science articles globally).
4) Establishment of top research centers - e.g. in Ishaka, Uganda, TReND established the "Institute for Biomedical Research, IBR" at the College of Health Sciences - today one of the best-equipped labs in the country. Thanks to their work, the IBR recently won a major international grant (Wellcome Trust, UK). The organisation is currently building a scaled-up version in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
5) Science Outreach in schools. TReND Alumni have formed the TReND outreach branch - they visit schools in their home countries and get kids and adults alike excited about science.