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Imaging Africa: a strategic approach to optical microscopy training in Africa

Life scientists in Africa have had limited opportunity to participate in international advanced scientific training programs and workshops, which largely benefit researchers in North America, Europe and the Asia–Pacific region. Here, we chronicle the strategies adopted and challenges encountered in organizing Imaging Africa, an all-expenses-paid, continent-wide practical workshop in optical microscopy hosted in South Africa from 13 to 17 January 2020. Our experience can help steer other groups who similarly seek to organize impactful and sustainable training initiatives in Africa.

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Fig. 1: Distribution of applicants for Imaging Africa 2020.
Fig. 2: Maintaining a diverse and representative composition of workshop attendees.
Fig. 3: Immersive learning and hands-on experience with a broad range of microscopy tools.
Fig. 4: Responses to selected survey questions.


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We thank S. Cooper, D. Lang, C. Jacobs, Abhimanyu, L. Jakoet, D. Fredericks, R. Bastos, S. Hendriks and G. Sexton for their assistance in ensuring the success of the workshop. We are immensely grateful to R. George and G. Rubin for their strong support of the Imaging Africa initiative. We acknowledge the UCT Confocal & Light Microscope Imaging Facility for the use of their facility during the workshop. We are grateful to the members of the MRC/NHLS/UCT Molecular Mycobacteriology Research Unit for their support and assistance. Special thanks go to our commercial partners, Zeiss Research Microscopy Solutions and Oxford Nanoimaging. We thank V. Mizrahi and the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine for their institutional commitment. We are grateful to H. Ndlovu for critical review of the manuscript. Lastly, we would like to thank all applicants and attendees of the Imaging Africa workshop. The Imaging Africa workshop was supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, the Wellcome Centre for Infectious Diseases Research in Africa, the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill African Studies Center and the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine. The Advanced Imaging Center at the Janelia Research Campus is generously supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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Correspondence to Teng-Leong Chew.

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Reiche, M.A., Warner, D.F., Aaron, J. et al. Imaging Africa: a strategic approach to optical microscopy training in Africa. Nat Methods 18, 847–855 (2021).

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