The establishment of an Academy of Sciences in Ethiopia first started in the 1960s by the renowned Ethiopian Scientist Aklilu Lemma who pioneered and presented the initiative to the Imperial Government. The idea was met with reluctance from the Government who were skeptical about the benefits of establishing an Academy of Sciences, but Aklilu Lemma and his colleagues were able to ease the skepticisms by arguing the merits that an Academy affords to the growing scientific community and to the public in Ethiopia. However, just as the initiative was gaining momentum, Ethiopia was engulfed in a revolution that brought to power the Derg regime and deferred the establishment an Academy of Sciences in Ethiopia.
Over four decades later, the idea to establish an Academy of Sciences was revived in 2007 by a group of Ethiopian scholars who were committed to promoting a culture of scientific inquiry and creativity in Ethiopia. The noticeable lack of platforms for collaboration and networking among the scientific community in Ethiopia coupled with the desire to see Ethiopia represented in the growing global networks of Academies further kindled the efforts. This time, the initiative was spearheaded by Professor Masresha Fetene who started e-mail discussions with several scholars within and outside Ethiopia to establish an Academy of Sciences.
The effort culminated in the creation of a multidisciplinary Ad-hoc committee to guide the establishment of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences in January 2008. The Committee included academics and representatives of professional societies.
On the 13th of February 2008, the Ad-hoc Committee organized a “National Conference on the Establishment of an Ethiopian Academy of Sciences”. The Conference, which was attended by 250 academics and professionals representing a variety of disciplines and associations, deliberated on the missions, vision, and objectives of the Academy and emphasized the need for experience-sharing with established Academies world-wide. The National Conference was concluded by establishing a Launching Board of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences with the task of developing the Statutes of the Academy, developing the criteria for membership, selection of the first Fellows of the Academy and organizing the maiden meeting of the Academy.
The Launching Board of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences
With nine elected members, the Launching Board of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences advanced towards the launch of the Academy by drafting the Statues of the Academy; developing selection criteria for Founding Fellows; and involving key stakeholders.
The Launching Board presented forty-nine academics with the distinctive honor of becoming Founding-Fellows of EAS. The Founding-Fellows represented a wide-ranging disciplines of science including the natural sciences, mathematics, medicine, life sciences, agricultural sciences, engineering sciences, social sciences, humanities, and fine arts and letters. The Board managed to enlist the support and active participation of key stakeholders, including the Ethiopian Government, the scientific community, public and private institutions within the country and abroad, towards the establishment and development of the Academy and enhancement of further collaboration.
While preparing to officially launch the Academy, the Launching Board, in collaboration with the Royal Society/Pfizer African Academies Programme and Network of African Science Academies (NASAC), organized a sideline workshop on April 9, 2010 with the theme: “Engaging Young Scientists”. The workshop was attended by 40 participants drawn from different universities and research institutions in the country. Guest speakers were representatives from the Royal Society, NASAC, Kenya and Ghana Academies of Sciences.
The culmination of the activities of the Launching Board was the Maiden Meeting of the Founding Fellows of EAS that was held on 27 March 2010. At the meeting, 49 Fellows reviewed and approved the Statutes of the Academy and selected the first Management Board of the Academy. Professor Demissie Habte, the first scholar to be ranked Professor in Ethiopia, was elected as the first president of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences.
The Launching Conference
A Launching Conference held on April 10, 2010 marked the official launch of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences (EAS). The Conference was attended by H.E. Girma Wolde-Giorgis who officially opened the Launching Conference, and 320 participants including representatives of African, European and US Academies, Networks of Academies as well as high profile national and international personalities. The Founding-Fellows, the President and the two Vice-Presidents and other Board members of EAS were introduced during the conference.
In 2013, the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences was reestablished as an autonomous institution with Proclamation No. 783/2013. Since its launch in 2010, the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences has organized two Science Congresses; conducted Consensus Studies; organized several trainings and workshops; and prepared publications on matters of national significance. The Academy expanded its Fellowship by adding several scholars of high caliber as Fellows and Associate Fellows.