Neuromag May 2017 - Page 6

Using science as tool for social change: The case of TReND in Africa Written by André Maia Chagas Science is great. We get to learn about a topic we love and see things that no one, or very few people in the world have seen before. We try to find solutions for unanswered problems and push the bound- aries of human knowledge a bit further and add a little bit of light to the immense darkness. If we, and the ones that will come after us, do our jobs just right, the things we develop might end up making lives better. These were reasons why I got into science; I thought it would be a good way to combine something I always loved, biology, with something that could potentially improve lives around me. A couple of years into my career, I came to realize that although my heart was in the right place, it was na- ive to believe that research outcomes would be fast and that the reach of those outcomes would be, as a rule, far-reaching. The progress of science is steady, but unfortunately slow, as it takes years, if not decades, before a new discovery becomes a consoli- dated piece of knowledge, or makes its way into society as a new tool or treatment option. One of the reasons for this slow pace is that science is only conducted by a small number of people, in a limited number of places (Figure 1). As can be seen on the map (Figure 1), sci- entific distribution is largely uneven throughout the world and uncorre- lated with the population of a coun- try. Japan and Nigeria, for example, have similar population sizes (~127 and 148 million people, respectively), but very different scientific output re- cords. The results in Nigeria seem to be the rule rather than the exception in the African continent. This uneven distribution leads to, among other things, “brain drain” where people move out of developing coun