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Inaugural Deans’ Workshop Addresses Research Management

The DVCAA-Dr. Umar Kakumba (6th R), Director DRGT-Prof. Buyinza Mukadasi (4th R) with participants at the Inaugural Deans' Workshop held on 14th June 2019, Hotel Africana, Kampala Uganda

Makerere University on Friday, 14th June 2019 held the Inaugural Workshop for Deans and Directors in academic affairs under the theme “Building Institutional Capacity for Researcher Development, Funding and Management of Sponsored Research”. Organised by the Office of the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic Affairs)-DVCAA and the Directorate of Research and Graduate Training (DRGT), the Friday event was the first in a series of training and sensitisation workshops for academic leaders at Makerere University, aimed at building a sustainable research culture and research management systems for quality and relevant research output.

Welcoming participants to the Inaugural Workshop, the Director DRGT Prof. Buyinza Mukadasi shared that the University Management is committed to establishing Makerere as a fully-fledged research University over the period 2020-2030. This shall be achieved by placing emphasis on increasing graduate enrolment, establishing research infrastructure, strengthening research policies, mobilisation of research funding, fostering knowledge production and utilisation of research results for sustainable national development.

“This is the first in the series of training workshops. Similar ones for College Principals, and Heads of Academic Departments, Research Centres and Coordination Offices will follow in the course of the year,” added Prof. Buyinza.

A cross section of some of the participants in Makerere University’s Inaugural Workshop for Deans and Directors in Academic Affairs, 14th June 2019, Hotel Africana, Kampala Uganda

Presenting the rationale for the workshop, the DVCAA Dr. Umar Kakumba who represented the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe shared that it was a great pleasure to interact with colleagues who play a critical role in the academic affairs of Makerere University.

“Reputable Universities around the world are expected to be centres of excellence in research, innovations and knowledge or technological transfer for the wellbeing of communities and national welfare. Unfortunately research in sub-Saharan Africa has been undermined by deficiencies in research support systems, management and administration,” remarked Dr. Kakumba.

The DVCAA was however optimistic that a formalised Deans’ Forum, which was one of the expected outcomes of the Workshop, would nurture and institutionalise a vibrant research culture among research leaders and faculty. “We are here to inspire each other on how to excel in attracting grants and interacting with agents both within and without the country.”

The DVCAA-Dr. Umar Kakumba represented the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe and delivered the keynote address

Delivering the Keynote address on behalf of the Vice Chancellor, Dr. Kakumba shared that universities the world over exist for the three fundamental purposes of: Generation of knowledge; Dissemination of knowledge, through teaching and learning; and Community outreach. He noted that research funding trends were steadily shifting from institutional core funding to competitive project funding and performance-based funding that rewards success in raising third-party funds.

The address also highlighted that at 38 researchers per one million people, Uganda falls way behind continental leaders Egypt and South Africa that reported approximately 679 and 437 researchers respectively for the same sample size. Scandinavian countries however reported figures above 6,000 researchers per one million people.

Nevertheless, it was noted that Makerere can take advantage of its historical brand as the region’s premier university as well as collaborations and partnerships with the world’s leading universities to boost its research potential. The University can also take advantage of its wide academic disciplinary specialities; at over 37% science, resident centres of excellence and alumni of high calibre spread across the globe to better leverage its research potential.

The Director Quality Assurance-Dr. Vincent Ssembatya said universities ought to be "citadels not silos"

Chairing the first session on Research Governance and Organisational Capacity: Role of Central Research Office/Directorate, the Director Quality Assurance, Dr. Vincent Ssembatya while quoting the 2010 Association of Commonwealth Universities conference held in Cape Town, South Africa asserted that Universities must be “citadels not silos”.

“Universities are by nature made up of thousands of staff and students across various disciplines engaged in teaching and learning, research and knowledge transfer. They should be seen to fix the problems of communities that surround them” explained Dr. Ssembatya.

Sharing from personal experience, Prof. Buyinza Mukadasi in his presentation revealed that the challenges of grants management are directly proportional to size; the bigger the grant the more the challenges faced.

The Director DRGT-Prof. Buyinza Mukadasi emphasised the role of a Central Research Office as a proponent of quality research output and effective grants management

“A Central Research Office is important in helping researchers to identify the potential risks associated with particular grants. Our research governance structure should be able to lead to enhancement of quantity, quality and relevant research output” said the Director DRGT.

Prof. Buyinza also shared that the revitalization of the Makerere University Press was timely, as it would help make institutional research more visible by translating findings and innovations into usable products for communities. He revealed that the Deans’ Forum would foster accountability as the research leaders freely exchange grants opportunities and effective management practices.

The second session made The Case for a Deans’ Forum: Effective Research Leadership for a Research-led University. The Dean School of Languages, Literature and Communication, Dr. Aaron Mushengyezi who chaired the session noted that the training workshops would inspire research teams and provide a platform for Deans to share best practices in resource mobilisation. He also called upon Deans to always share their grant writing skills with junior colleagues, “This will boost their confidence and motivate them to apply for more grants on their own.”

The Dean, School of Languages, Literature and Communication-Dr. Aaron Mushengyezi

Quoting the SAGE Handbook of Research Management by Robert Dingwall and Mary Byrne McDonnell the session presenter and Dean, Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH), Prof. Rhoda Wanyenze said “Research organizations particularly large ones such as universities may need units capable of doing both radical and incremental innovation.”

The same Handbook she said also notes that “innovation may be better placed in smaller organizations or smaller units within large organizations.”

Prof. Wanyenze shared that the MakSPH experience had shown that innovation thrives in diversity and oftentimes lies at the borderline of different disciplines. “If we do not reach out to those from different units, we could miss out on a lot of innovations” she explained.

The Dean MakSPH-Prof. Rhoda Wanyenze made the case for Effective Research Leadership

Speaking on the capabilities that foster Effective Research Capabilities, Prof. Wanyenze said that scientific or scholarly credibility were no longer sufficient in today’s dynamic environment. “Dingwall R and McDonnell MB in their Handbook of Research Management describe five additional capabilities as; the Entrepreneur, the Networker, the Collaborator, the Mentor and the Multitasker.”

These capabilities, she said, could be developed by research leaders over time and/or achieved through appropriate team organization. The Dean further observed that teaching and research are synergistic and as such, delivering stability and small incremental change is required to address both. She nevertheless warned that cutting-edge research is inherently disruptive.

The third session of the day on Research Funding and Building Functional Networks for Makerere was chaired by the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Finance and Administration)-DVCFA, Prof. William Bazeyo, a renowned grants mobiliser. In his remarks, the DVCFA thanked Dr. Kakumba for championing the Inaugural Deans’ Workshop and inviting him to chair the session.

The DVCFA-Prof. William Bazeyo said researchers ought to forge research networks

He spoke on the importance of forging research networks, as these enable the collaborating parties to prolong the life of research and innovations beyond the duration and funding of projects under which they were nurtured.

“We must also establish an autonomous grants management system for all our units if we are to improve research management and output” added Prof. Bazeyo.

Delivering the presentation, MakSPH’s Dr. Roy William Mayega observed that whereas universities with their high concentrations of experts, facilities, ideas and mentors have a key role to play in research and innovations, funding that ensured sustainability and continuity of research remained a big problem. “Many low-income countries have not prioritised investments in research leading to weak research infrastructure and heavy reliance on grants.”

This was backed by a 2019 LASER-RAN assessment of 27 universities in Africa, which showed that over 70% of research funding originates from outside the continent. Whereas Governments were shown by the same assessment to contribute 9.7% of the research funding, the private sector at 3.8% made the least contribution.

MakSPH's Dr. Roy William Mayega presented on Research Funding and Building Functional Networks for Makerere

Dr. Mayega also pointed out that research with no clear path to translation, disconnect with development priorities and inadequate grants writing capacity were threats to research in our universities. Others cited were; few super-experienced researchers, inadequate financial management capacity and bureaucracy.

“Our knowledge products are mostly academic publications that are not easily understood by funders. We need to translate our research into simpler language and impactful innovations” he explained.

Dr. Mayega therefore called for increased support to young researchers by putting in place grants targeting young scientists as well as supporting the publications and career paths of non-teaching research support staff. He also proposed increased internal cross-disciplinary networks, improved research-to-translation support and improved research support infrastructure as some of the incentives to help build functional research networks.

The Dean, School of Women and Gender Studies-Dr. Sarah Ssali chaired the workshop’s last session on Incentivising Research

Charing the last session of the day, the Dean School of Women and Gender Studies, Dr. Sarah Ssali reassured the Deans and participants at the workshop that Makerere University was in the process of developing a policy on grants, which would incentivise more researchers and units to undertake research. “We will advocate for a policy that enables Schools or units from which the grants originate to share in or retain a good percentage of the overhead.”

Delivering the presentation on Incentivising Research & Researcher development in Universities, the Deputy Vice Chancellor Research, Innovation & Extension and Acting DVCAA at Kampala International University (KIU), Prof. George Nasinyama expressed happiness to be back at his alma mater, an institution that he previously served as Deputy Director Research under DRGT.

Prof.Nasinyama revealed that there was a paradigm shift in the nature of knowledge generation from the Ivory Tower and its connotations of mono-disciplinary research to the Engaged University with its multidisciplinary, participative research that was uncertain and exploratory in nature. “However, there is also a third GloCal mode of Universities with local meaning but global reach, which place emphasis on clusters and networks and accountability to various stakeholders.”

DVC Research, Innovation & Extension and Acting DVCAA Kampala International University, Prof. George Nasinyama

He stated that many African Universities still faced challenges with massification and teaching overload which leads to the vicious cycle of ‘teach or perish’. This, he said, necessitates lecturers to rush from one overcrowded lecture room to another, resulting in reduced thirst for research (libido sciendi).

Prof. Nasinyama nevertheless said that researchers at Makerere University can be incentivised in three main ways namely; Government support to a research fund or through subsidy, Institutional incentives based on performance at either individual or departmental level, and support to researchers that bring income to the University by sharing overhead costs.

“In South Africa, the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) provides a publication subsidy to universities of approximately US$9,000 per publication unit, which is equivalent to a peer-reviewed, accredited journal article or book chapter by one author. However, this scheme is absent in many African Countries” remarked Prof. Nasinyama giving an example of a Government subsidy.

At the conclusion of the Workshop, participants present, guided by the day's able moderator Dr. Patrick Byakagaba agreed to form a seven member Interim Deans’ Forum with the DVCAA Dr. Umar Kakumba as the Patron. Nominated members were; Prof. Rhoda Wanyenze-CHS (Chairperson), Dr. Edward Bbaale-CoBAMS (Vice Chairperson), Dr. Aaron Mushengyezi-CHUSS, Dr. Robert Tweyongyere-CoVAB, Dr. Grace Kibanja-CHUSS, Dr. Ronald Naluwairo-LAW and Dr. Gilbert Maiga-CoCIS.

Article by Public Relations Office

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