UCU enters inter-university collaboration to boost research culture
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2021/01/ucu-enters-inter-university-collaboration-to-boost-research-culture/
By Douglas Olum
In the wake of the global invasion by the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of research, especially in the health sector, has without doubt, been fully uncovered. Health experts across the globe are working tirelessly to understand the nature of the virus and derive appropriate vaccines and treatment for it. In Uganda, researchers at the Uganda Virus Institute are equally trying to develop a home-based remedy for COVID-19.
The Uganda Christian University (UCU) dean of the School of Research and Post-Graduate Studies, Associate Prof. Kukunda Elizabeth Bacwayo, said in an interview that research and innovation are necessary for such developments to occur, and universities have a great role to play in developing the researchers.
“Having people that are teaching at the university and are not helped in developing their research career means that you are having people that are teaching and using information that is not of their own making,” Bacwayo said. “But also, it means that they are not contributing to knowledge out there and innovation that is needed for the country.”
Relating her point to the COVID-19 vaccine development, Bacwayo said there was need for Ugandans to develop their own solution to the pandemic.
“If we are to rely on what other people are doing, I think you have heard [that] people have developed the [COVID-19] vaccine, but how many people will get it?” Bacwayo asked. “People will always first think of themselves and so we too as a country need to develop home-based solutions. We can only do that if we have a number of researchers who have been mentored and trained to do research.”
To that end, UCU recently entered into a collaborative research project with Makerere University, Mbarara University of Science and Technology, and Muteesa I Royal University.
The first year of the five-year project is funded with sh157 million ($42,450) by the Government of Uganda under the Research and Innovation Fund. Its aim is to create an inter-university research and innovation community for early career researchers in Uganda. The project was launched on November 13, 2020, at the UCU Main Campus in Mukono.
Under the project, the partners seek to: strengthen the capacity of early career researchers in teaching, research, and innovations; establish an inter-university large-scale soft research data infrastructure; promote joint research and organize agenda-setting activities for cutting-edge research; and enhance research outcome dissemination by digital approaches to support policy and the national research and innovation agenda.
Assoc. Prof. Bacwayo said this research project is designed to address key challenges facing research in Uganda including inadequate capacity and perspectives of early career researchers, narrow inter-university research networks, limited and uncoordinated research and innovation-based solutions, and limited advances in modern research and innovation dissemination.
She also said that while most Ugandans still do research only as part of the requirement for their degree studies, the collaborative project is targeting to get as many Ugandans as possible to embrace research as continuous processes and as part of their lives and work.
“We want to get people who are still developing as researchers to get into the habit of looking at research as not just something you do once but something that you do and it produces information, it produces knowledge and it produces solutions to a country’s problems,” Bacwayo said.
To achieve that target, the project is holding virtual seminars to equip their academic staff with necessary research knowledge. They are also preparing them to write at least five joint review papers that will be published.
Uganda Christian University has continuously been ranked as the second-best university in the country. But according to former Vice Chancellor, Rev. Canon Dr. John Senyonyi, the university has not made it to the top because of limited research output.
With this project in place, Bacwayo believes that the full participation of UCU staff in those seminars and review papers writing will help to unveil the university as one that also produces research.
“We have many staff but there are very few research products coming out,” Bacwayo said. “I am really hoping that many of UCU staff will get involved in these capacity development seminars that we are running so that they can gain that confidence and start thinking of research as an essential part of their lives so that we as UCU can start seeing many research products coming out of us.”
Speaking at the launch, UCU Vice Chancellor, Assoc. Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi, commended the project team for the “comprehensive move to raise research standards.” Mushengyezi urged them to create networks with the external world so that their works are published and their relevance and impact on society is felt.
The project launch was organized by Network for Education and Multidisciplinary Research Africa (NEMRA). But the collaboration is a product of a four-instiitution, joint application for a grant.
“I am passionate about research because I love to read, I love new knowledge and I know that now we are living in a world driven by knowledge where if you are not knowledgeable, you are left behind,” Bacwayo said. “I don’t want to be left behind. But I also want to be able to contribute to the knowledge creation.”
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