|Southern African DRUSSA Regional Meeting|
|Monday, 19 October 2015 10:59|
The DRUSSA team visited a number of Southern African universities during September, and in October met with the University of Botswana (UB), University of Zambia (UZ) and the Zimbabwean National University of Science and Technology (NUST) at a regional workshop held at the University of Botswana. DRUSSA.net interviews Dr B. Mogodisheng Sekhwela who provides an overview of the discussions.
The regional workshop meetings, held at UoB discussed the successes and challenges that Research Uptake activities have faced since the inception of the DRUSSA Programme. The workshop was very positive and a great opportunity to share experiences which highlighted some of the achievements of each institution, as well as similarities and differences in context.
Research Uptake Successes
All three universities had a number of successes to highlight.
The University of Botswana’s successes hinged on top management support for Research Uptake and the involvement of teams across the university. One substantial support tool that was developed was a Research Information Management system that allows the university to track development research in order to identify projects that may suitable for uptake. This system runs in conjunction with the University’s Institutional Repository, which houses the research publications.
The University also has eight journals that are used for dissemination, and a conference database which provides researchers with information on where they can share their research information. In addition there has been a strengthening of relationships with government that has lead to an increased awareness, within government circles, of research undertaken at the university, within government circles.
DRUSSA programme activities have really built Research Uptake capacity at the University of Botswana, including completion of the Research Uptake Management short courses, and participation in the annual Research Uptake Communication coaching and support, which has strengthened communications activities and capacity.
The University of Botswana Office of Research and Development is in the process of developing a Technology Transfer Office, which will be housed at the Botswana Innovation Hub, currently under construction. The University is currently revising its guidelines for eligibility for research funding, to include aspects of Research Uptake.
The University of Zambia has put emphasis on running short courses on Research Uptake and they also have a webpage dedicated to RU. They have established a Research Uptake desk in the National Chamber of Commerce, a key alliance partner, providing concrete links with stakeholders outside of the university.
Another initiative from the University of Zambia has been to hold media briefings for stakeholders, which are facilitated by senior university academics, and where new innovations and research success stories are highlighted.
The University of Zambia also has a Research Policy and Implementation Manual that now also includes Research Uptake as a key part of the research process.
Along with the Universities of Zambia and Botswana, the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo has also benefitted greatly from the DRUSSA programme in developing a strategy that adapts to its unique context. NUST has for many years made use of media briefings as a tool for dissemination of research, as well as organising regular Research Open Days. NUST has developed a monitoring and evaluation plan for DRUSSA activities.
The University of Botswana has faced a number of challenges in institutionalising Research Uptake, and these are also common to the other universities. For example, although key executive and senior managers at UB are positive about DRUSSA, the university has been slow to adopt DRUSSA Initiatives.
There are also limited resources to be dedicated to Research Uptake and DRUSSA activities. So while it is recognised that for sustainability it is important for researchers to embrace the importance of getting research into use, and for RU to be embedded in the university systems, sustainability activities will inevitably be resource-constrained.
A common issue, pertinent to all the universities, which needs to be addressed, is that of incentives – how will the requirement to respond to demand for research from government and development organisations be recognised? The reward and precognition systems for researchers need to be formalised so that Research Uptake is a factor that counts toward promotion and access to further research funding.
Making an Impact
The programme team at the workshop presented an M&E framework for developing indicators to assess improvements to institutional capacity, and each university is building a customised set of M&E indicators for the activities that it has chosen to undertake.
DRUSSA Network of Universities
The issue of sustainability was an important part of the discussion and the universities agreed that it is important to make sure that the momentum built through DRUSSA is not lost.
Participating in the DRUSSA programme has resulted in a network of universities that are sharing experiences and lessons learned as well as supporting each other in institutionalising Research Uptake. The meeting held in Botswana provided an opportunity for these three universities to network further as part of the SADC and SADC can also be a mechanism through which RU activities can be sustained after the end of the programme.
Dr Mogodisheng Sekhwela is the DRUSSA Champion at the University of Botswana, and the Assistant Director of Research Quality Management for R&D at the University.