|Strengthening Research Uptake at Makerere University|
|Friday, 10 July 2015 12:01|
In an interview Susan Mbabazi, Assistant Registrar in the Directorate of Research and Graduate Training (DRGT) at Makerere University and the DRUSSA coordinator, outlines the Research Uptake activities at the university and some of the challenges in institutionalising Research Uptake at Makerere.
Makerere University has developed a focused research agenda that is multi-disciplinary and is aligned with the National Government’s Development Plan, which is known as the Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP). The focus of the University on ensuring that its research agenda is aligned with national priorities has also resulted in a robust emphasis on Research Uptake. The Directorate of Research and Graduate Studies was established with the mission to “coordinate, monitor and provide an enabling environment for quality graduate training, innovative research and communication of the research outputs” and to “foster and manage graduate training and research in the university units by promoting cutting edge innovative, impact-oriented research and centres of excellence to meet the changing needs of society and for sustainable development”.
The Directorate does this by co-ordinating and administering all research and research information, advising on research priorities aligned to the National Development objectives of the country, and working as an outreach centre.
Historical focus on Research Uptake
Mbabazi notes that the university has a long history of research uptake activities that have been strengthened and supported by its involvement with the DRUSSA programme’s capacity-building and institutional change activities. For example, with support from Sida and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Directorate of Research and Graduate Training has a held a series of training sessions in developing policy briefs targeting academic staff, researches as well as Ph D students. In addition, with support from Sida and the IDRC, the Directorate commissioned a university-wide research audit covering the years 2000-2013. The purpose of the audit was two-fold: i) to assess research productivity and impact i.e. volume of research, research outputs, research funding and the impact of research outputs from Makerere University. ii) to establish a baseline for College/Department/Individual assessment of the performance in research and innovations function as well as form the basis for analysis and improvement of research grants and resource mobilization initiatives.
The university currently has a draft Research Communications Policy that will shortly be submitted to Senate. This policy supports a range of Research Uptake activities including a series of dissemination workshops where research outputs namely, research reports, articles in refereed journals, Doctoral theses and dissertations, conference papers innovations (for example new software, products and patents) are shared with government ministries, the private sector, development partners, higher education institutions, research bodies, the media, communities and the general public.
The university also has a number of other strategies to promote uptake including for example engaging with the media and using policy briefs as a tool for promoting uptake. In addition there is a budget for training in Research Uptake activities.
A key focus of Research Uptake activities is the university’s engagements with government departments in Uganda. There is a student internship programme where second and third year students are supervised while spending time working in government departments, ensuring both that the students understand the environment that government officials work in, but also that government officials understand the types of research expertise that the university can provide. It is hoped that this programme, which provides an effective interface between government, academics and students will be extended to post-graduates.
Using research information management resources
In addition to having an institutional repository the Directorate is building a database where researchers can electronically submit their research proposals, making it easier for the Directoriate to identify suitable research to focus its uptake activities on. This will improve on the current system where researchers email their research outputs to the Directorate. The Directorate also currently keeps track of research outputs which are suitable for Research Uptake by tracking citations using Incites, a database which provides citation metrics from the Web of Science.
According to Mbabazi challenges remain in order to have Research Uptake integrated at all levels of the University. Spending on Research Uptake competes with many other budget priorities including, for example, infrastructure. This makes motivating for resources a challenge.There is also the challenge (as at many other universities) where researchers with whom the Directorate has built up a relationship move on, and new relationships need to be built with other researchers to promote a culture of Research Uptake.
Despite these challenges, with a strong history of Research Uptake and the development of institutional policy to support Research Uptake, Makerere University’s development research, which addresses national priorities, is far more likely to be taken up into policy, cementing the university’s central role in national development.
Susan Mbabazi is the Assistant Registrar in the Directorate of Research and Graduate Training at Makerere University.