|Getting to know research uptake and how it has influenced my research and career|
|Friday, 24 June 2016 11:48|
Dr. Viola Nilah Nyakato, Director of the Institute of Interdisciplinary Training and Research (IITR) at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST), Ugandareflects on how, through the DRUSSA Programme, in her own work as well as more broadly at the university, Research Uptake has come to the fore.
In 2012, MUST nominated me to be part of the DRUSSA programme as the University DRUSSA Champion. As the programme Champion, I have had a number of opportunities to engage with experts in research communication and uptake. Through DRUSSA experts’ Campus Visits and Benchmarking Conferences, I was able to network with other researchers and academicians from over 20 universities in sub-Saharan Africa. The campus engagements with the DRUSSA Implementation Team have created a cadre of research uptake advocates at MUST. As I reflect after 5 years of being part of the DRUSSA programme, I am delighted to share indicators of research uptake influence at MUST.
Conducting Strategically Relevant Development Research
In 2013, MUST undertook a restructuring exercise to improve the relevance and practicability of the Humanities and Arts undergraduate programmes. The then Bachelor of Development Studies was phased out and the Bachelor of Science in Planning and Community Development was developed. I led the team which conducted the needs assessment for this new academic programme. It included the review of Uganda’s Vision 2040 which is a national strategic plan aimed at seeing Uganda improve into a middle income country. The curriculum review and development team acknowledged the need for training human resources who understand their environment and thus adapted ‘servicing learning’. The Community Twinning Project (STP) is a service learning initiative where students work with communities for 3 to 4 hours a week. STP is an examined subject where students conduct needs assessment, identify community resources and, with the community, implement a project. This clip explains STP.
Engaging with Stakeholders
In 2015, I worked with colleagues on a partnership research project which involved two university units, Uganda Wild Life Authority and the Community around Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. The overall aim of the research was to assess local women’s space in the Integrated Conservation and Development (ICD) Policy by UWA. This aim was premised on understanding the existing gender relations and the echelon of women involvement in forest resource revenue flow and governance. The project team investigated how women understand and benefit from and govern revenue that is generated from Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Park. The research project led to an initiative to integrate a gender policy into the ICD Policy and was recognised internally. I was awarded the 2015 World Heritage Hero at the 39th Session of the German Commission for UNESCO (see here).
Participatory Research to Promote Uptake
I am currently implementing a research project on Understanding How Very Young Adolescents (VYA) Grow Up in Uganda: A situational analysis of the local socioecological context of Southwestern Uganda. In this research, we use participatory research methods to involve the study participants in the collection of data and a community advisory board is part of the research team. The role of the community advisory board is to integrate community ownership of the research results throughout the research process.
These three cases provide examples of research uptake, innovations in higher education and the need for continuous growth, flexibility and relevance. In the case of the service learning curriculum, there is real-time Research Uptake. The women in conservation case shows how some policies may lack strategies for inclusion of their primary target and how research provides an opportunity to address policy gaps. Involving the community in the research process is aimed at ensuring the research results are created and understood the research subjects.
Dr. Viola Nilah Nyakato (PhD), is Director of the Institute of Interdisciplinary Training and Research (IITR) at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST), Uganda