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Kenya toughens up on research permits for locals and foreigners

Kenya’s national science council has warned local and international researchers that they must obtain permission before carrying out studies in the country or risk legal consequences.

On 26 September the National Council for Science Technology and Innovation posted the country’s research permit rules on its website. It also took out adverts in local newspapers to put its message across.

The reason for the media blitz, says Stephen Karimi, deputy director in charge of accreditation and quality assurance at Nacosti, is a growing realisation that many people and institutions engage in research in Kenya without permits.

“The purpose is to alert all those engaged in research that there are rules to be followed by everyone. It is part of our awareness creation campaign targeted at both individuals and institutions,” he said. The rules apply to both foreigners and locals, he added.

Kenya’s science, technology and innovation act from 2013 states that anybody who “accesses, handles, transacts, transfers or moves any specified technology or any material necessary for scientific research within, into or from Kenya without a licence” could face a fine of up to Ksh5 million (US$50,000) or four years in prison.

But many people are ignorant of the provisions of law or “suffer the Kenyan attitude of lack of respect for the law,” said Karimi.

Licence fees vary between Ksh100 Kenyan and Ksh40,000 shillings for Africans, and between US$150 and US$10,000 for others.

Nacosti says researchers must apply on the council’s website, attaching a passport-size photo, a scanned copy of their identity card or passport, an affiliation letter from a local institution if they are foreigners, a research proposal, an introductory letter for students, and a certificate of ethical clearance where necessary.

According to Nacosti, licences will be granted for a maximum of one year. Both the licence and any rights it carries are non-transferable, it says. Excavation, filming and collection of specimens may be subjected to additional authorisation from government agencies. The licence does not allow transfer of research materials.