Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa held the 3rd Joint Advanced Seminar (JAS-3) for its Cohort 3 fellows at the University of Ibadan (UI), Ibadan, Nigeria. The one-month long workshop was held between August 3 and August 26, 2015, at the University College Hospital (UCH) and attended by 19 Cohort 3 fellows.
JAS 3 in the CARTA series provides the fellows with protected space to analyse and write up their thesis, present sections of their work, critique their own work, offer collegial critique to other fellows and make use of the resource people available to sharpen any of the skills they have gained through the fellowship program.
The Consortium aims at building a vibrant multidisciplinary African academy that is able to lead world-class research that makes a positive impact on population and public health. “CARTA believes that research evidence should not be sitting in shelves but should reach the targeted end users who are decision makers. This is because decisions made without evidence are never resulting in programs that address the needs of the people,” remarked Dr. Alex Ezeh, CARTA Director during the opening of JAS 3.
Researchers need to reach out to policy makers with evidence from their work in order to be able to influence desired changes. Policy makers on the other hand need to clearly understand what evidence is coming from research and their implications in order to be able to make relevant decisions. This kind of engagement between researchers and policy makers call for effective presentation of research data in a manner that can be easily understood and consumed. Researchers hence need to equip themselves with certain presentation skills and tactics that will ensure effective policy engagement.
The four-week workshop focused on data presentation, doctoral dissertation, and scientific writing and communication skills to facilitate results dissemination and policy engagement and academic success. There were a variety of facilitators at JAS 3 drawn from a number of countries in Africa, USA, and the UK amongst other nations. The facilitators had wide range of expertise and experience ranging qualitative to quantitative research methods.
During JAS 3, facilitators had numerous one-on-one sessions with fellows apart from facilitating various joint and group sessions. There were numerous scientific blitzes that stimulated interesting debates on issues like homophobia; publish or perish; confounded p value amongst others. According to the cohort 3 fellows, JAS 3 was the best JAS for them and they could not quantify how they benefited from the four-week workshop.
There were also organized sessions during JAS 3 that are very specific to JAS 3 including:
Manuscript clubs (MCs)
During the JAS, there were organized manuscript clubs (MCs) that assisted fellows in articulating their thoughts by editing scientific manuscripts for language usage, punctuation and organization. The MCs are designed specifically to answer the request of many fellows and they are meant to impart skills are useful for scientific writing. The MCs are intended to provide an environment that optimizes the interaction of fellows and their mentors during the process of preparing a manuscript for publication by minimizing the time they spend on basic writing skills.
Diagnostic sessions (DGs)
Diagnostic Sessions (DG) are purposed to support fellows in identifying their needs and accessing one-to-one support during the JAS. The sessions are run in small pre-assigned groups with a facilitator. From the DGs, fellows get clarity about how to make progress each week with their analysis and write up, and also get to know which facilitator to access for one-on-one support. The DGs enables fellows to clearly map out how to complete their PhD write up before the next JAS (JAS4).
Clinics offer fellows the opportunity to make appointments with resource people who provide them with support and advice. Fellows’ needs are be addressed by facilitators with expertise in the area of the fellow’s interest. During the support clinics, expert facilitators with skills in Writing and conceptualizing, demography, research logistics and study design, bio-statistics and qualitative research methods are brought in to offer hands-on support to the fellows.
To mark the end of JAS 3 was a public lecture titled “In Search of Relevant Research for Development" by Prof. Sola Akinrinade on August 26. Over 130 people attended the lecture that was also attended by University of Ibadan’s Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC) Academic affairs Pro. Gbemisola Oke and Prof. Babatunde L. Salako, Provost (Dean) of the University College Hospital (UCH) Ibadan. Provost is equivalent of Dean. It was clear from the lecture that African nations need to invest in research because it is the foundation for socio-economic development, and that universities should up their game in research.
“Universities should seek tangible ways of rewarding lecturers who undertake research because currently most universities do not have a functional reward system for researchers,” said Prof. Gbemisola Oke, DVC Academic Affairs at the University of Ibadan while giving his remarks after the lecture.