A team of researchers led by the University of Leeds is conducting a new and innovative training programme in Africa. The Development in Africa with Radio Astronomy (DARA) project seeks to provide people in the targeted countries with training to use radio telescopes. It also has an outreach programme to encourage young people to study the technological aspects of radio astronomy and pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. The project is funded by the Newton Fund – a novel initiative that aims to promote the economic development and social welfare of developing countries through scientific collaboration.
The Principal Investigator of DARA, Professor Melvin Hoare (Physics and Astronomy), expresses great enthusiasm for the Newton Fund. “The Fund uses Official Development Assistance (ODA) money for scientific collaboration, rather than for the more ‘traditional’ aid projects,” explains Professor Hoare. “Because the UK is one of the few countries to meet the 0.7 per cent of gross national income (GNI) UN aid target, significant resources are available outside of the usual science budget. Of course, all Newton Fund projects must be ODA compliant – that is, they must be able to demonstrate that their primary purpose is to promote the welfare and economic development of the partner country – which is an interesting challenge for a topic like astrophysics.”
Professor Melvin Hoare talks about his current international research projects in Africa, co-site of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA):