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Top stories of 2023: Africa

Ethical blunders and university crises—these were the biggest African research stories of the year

In 2023, space-bound hominin fossils, Uganda’s anti-gay law and South African university crises prompted some of our most-read Africa news.

Selected by our editorial team, these are the Research Professional News stories that defined African research this year.

1. Scientists slam ‘PR stunt’ that sent hominin fossils into space (14 September)

The blasting of two hominin fossils from South Africa into space in a billionaire’s pocket was slammed by scientists as “unethical” and “a publicity stunt”.

2. Former University of Cape Town leaders rebuked for misconduct (3 November)

The University of Cape Town’s former vice-chancellor, Mamokgethi Phakeng, and former council chair Babalwa Ngonyama “mendaciously misled” the university about the resignation of a senior figure at the institution, an investigation concluded.

3. Fear over safety of researchers and study participants in Uganda (6 December)

Uganda’s chief science council triggered outrage in the medical research community after suggesting researchers had a legal duty to report offences under the country’s anti-homosexuality laws, even if doing so breached confidentiality rules.

4. Don’t fear the spending freeze, South African scientists told (14 September)

A top official said there was “no need to panic”, as the Treasury curbed hiring, travel and infrastructure spending.

5. AAS ex-director Torto hails Kenyan court win (11 May)

Former executive director of the African Academy of Sciences, Nelson Torto, said “there is no real winner”, after claiming victory in a bitter Kenyan court battle with his former employer.

6. Africa-led charter aims to combat research inequality (6 July)

An Africa-led charter was launched with the aim of making global research collaboration more equitable.

7. Frequent blackouts cripple South African labs (19 January)

Researchers at several South African labs said the country’s increasingly frequent blackouts had left them unable to carry out experiments, crippling critical work.

8. Sudan’s scientists plead for help as war ravages research (28 September)

Sudan’s national science academy appealed to academic institutions worldwide to help university staff and students displaced by the country’s violent conflict.

9. South African science funder confirms executive shake-up (31 August)

Two top executives at South Africa’s National Research Foundation had vacated their posts, the organisation confirmed.

10. Morocco and Egypt signal interest in Cern membership (7 September)

Morocco and Egypt were jockeying to become the first African associate member countries of Cern, Europe’s high-energy physics facility, a conference heard.