|Research Uptake: In conversation with Prof Lucy Irungu|
|Wednesday, 19 February 2014 00:00|
The DRUSSA partner universities have come a long way since the programme launch in June 2012, many of them making excellent progress toward embedding Research Uptake and Research Uptake Management into their institutional structures. Good use has been made of opportunities available through the DRUSSA postgraduate and short courses programmes to broaden the skills sets of staff members. The University of Nairobi was one of the first the DRUSSA team visited for an implementation event. We spoke with DRUSSA Leader and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research, Production and Extension, Prof Lucy Irungu, to find out what has changed since those early days.
Q Since the DRUSSA campus implementation event and then later, after the September 2013 Nairobi Symposium, how much progress has the University of Nairobi made in institutionalising Research Uptake? Are there structures in place? Have strategy/policy documents come into being? Have human resources been made available? Has RU been factored into the university's overall research strategy?
A A Communication Policy has been developed and reviewed. It is awaiting approval by the University Management Board. This policy proposes a strengthened communication office at UoN. An Extension Policy is also being developed, which will lead to the creation of the position of Director for Research and Extension. The latter will improve and enhance uptake and communication of research and will strengthen linkages to industry, communities and the media. In my office (that of Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Production and Extension) there is an additional person whose area of specialisation is communication and IT. Then the Intellectual Property Management Office (IPMO), with support from the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI), is setting up a Technology and Innovation Support Centre (TISC), for which personnel have already been trained.
Q Do you have human resources specifically dedicated to RU or science communication?
A No. However, the new position of Director for Research & Extension under consideration in terms of the Draft Extension Policy will fulfil this function.
Q Is your university media/communications department involved at all?
A Staff at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Public Relations Officer in the Vice-Chancellor’s office have been involved in drafting the Communication Policy, which highlights the importance for Research Communication.
Q Have any committees/groupings been established to make sure RU is taking place? How do you ensure it happens?
A Two committees have been established, one to develop the Communication Policy, the other to develop the Extension Policy. The draft policies are awaiting approval.
Research Uptake has been factored into the university’s annual performance contract and individual staff are expected to report on RU. My office has created a database on ongoing extension activities and we solicit information on these.
Q Have you held any internal workshops or report-back sessions?
A The Research Development and Advisory Board (RDAB) reports on and makes recommendations to university management on all matters related to research. The RDAB and University Management Board held a two-and-a-half-day workshop in August 2013. It was during this workshop that the new position research and extension directorship was discussed extensively and the existing RPE structure reviewed.
Moreover, an Innovation Fund was approved to support researchers in converting their research outputs into technologies.
Q How has the team advocated for RU in broader university circles?
A During our training of academic staff on Proposal Writing and Grants Management; PhD Supervision; and Sensitisation on Intellectual Property, we included a topic on the need to engage the community before developing proposals to seek their input, along with a dissemination component once the research is complete.
Q What role does your library play?
A The Library has embraced Open Access and has developed an Open Access Policy. It has also developed an Institutional Repository in which all research publications, including theses, are available. We have made tremendous progress in this area and received recognition for our efforts. In early February 2014, the Open Access champion in our library, Ms Rosemary Otando was declared by the Electronic Publishing Trust for Development (EPT) joint winner of the EPT Open Access Awards 2013, jointly with Nuthu Nadhan of India. This was very encouraging to the university and library staff.
Q How many members of your implementation team have attended short courses and/or how many are participating in the MPhil/PhD programme?
A Seven have attended the courses on Science Utilisation and Impact, and Science Communication, while two have attended those on Research Evaluation, and Research Impact Assessment. One is participating in the MPhil programme and another in the PhD programme.
Q How have you incorporated RU onto your university website?
A We upload all information on RU that is forwarded to us by individual researchers onto the website. A recent example is a statement from the Vice-Chancellor.