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28 June 2017
Training the Trainer for Research Uptake Communications (RUC) Print
Monday, 05 October 2015 11:43

In an interview with DRUSSA.net, Dr Regina Ejemot-Nwadiaro, from the College of Medical Sciences Department of Public Health at the University of Calabar shares her thoughts on the Research Uptake Communicators (RUC) course held in Rwanda earlier this year.

The University of Calabar has a strong research focus, with research ranging from tropical diseases to biogass energy from waste. As part of its mandate the university disseminates research findings to interested stakeholders in a variety of ways so that the research can have real impact. Dr Ejemot-Nwadiaro, a member of the Research Uptake Team at University of Calabar participated in the annual Research Uptake Communication mentoring campaign which resulted in each of the DRUSSA universities producing a Research Uptake blog for publication on their own university’s, and the DRUSSA.net website. We interviewed her on the benefits the mentoring and guidance has had for her university.

Q: Having experienced/ taken part the Research Uptake Communications course how is/will it benefit your work at the University?

A: It has been of tremendous benefit to me personally as I now know alternative platforms for driving global traffic to my research works. Though it is not yet statutory, my project students are now including research uptake (RU) plans in their project/thesis proposals. Thus, I am gradually building their interest in RU with a view to having a critical mass of RU activists at the University of Calabar.

Q: How have your students and colleagues responded to receiving training and material from you?

A: The training and materials have been received with much enthusiasm and willingness, but these are yet to be translated into desired actions/outputs. Most students want trainings that have direct bearing/ benefits such as counting towards credit hours for their academic programmes. Thus for most of them, RUC, which involves identifying receptive audiences and preparing research for uptake is an extra activity, a ‘hobby’ to be pursued at leisure, which rarely happens. When the university formally recognizes the take-up of research their interest will become results focused.

"What are needed are for more Train-the-Trainers (TTT) RUC workshops, as my knowledge/skills in RUC at best could be described as just above ‘basic’ marching steadily to ‘intermediate’ level'"

Q: What additional support do your colleagues or students need in successfully writing up their research in formats that are accessible to particular audiences and to the general public?

A: A more basic need is to sensitize the university’s community academics on RUC about Research Uptake Communication (RUC), and its overall role in conducting research that makes the difference. There’s need for more formal training in the rudiments/ basics of RUC. What is needed are for more Train-the-Trainers (TTT) RUC workshops, as my knowledge/skills in RUC at best could be described as just above ‘basic’ marching steadily to ‘intermediate’ level. Since one cannot give what one does not have, then TTT should necessarily have to happen for RUC gains made to be sustained. Having free access to RUC materials will be of immense help in pushing the RUC agenda forward. [The DRUSSA programme is currently piloting a ‘Basics of Research Uptake Management’ short course which will be available in 2016].

Q: As an academic with teaching and research responsibilities how have you found the time to fit Research Uptake into your busy schedule? What support do you get from the university?

A: When a thing or activity is of value, great interest/ importance to you, you definitely create time to pursue it. I recognize the role RUC plays in making me visible to the global research community as well as for my personal ambition of making my research count in the lives of others. I therfor strive to budget quality time for Research Uptake and Research Uptake Communication exercises. Management at University of Calabar has been working on creating an enabling environment for research to thrive. This is exemplified by the establishment of the Directorate of Research, which has the mandate to promote research processes and products. However, there’s a need to elevate RU from its current status of a mere ‘add on’ activity to the ‘nucleus’ through its institutionalization. With that then in place, availability and access to RU resources and support will have wider and productive application.

“there’s a need to elevate RU from its current status of a mere ‘add on’ activity to the ‘nucleus’ through its institutionalization”

Q: Apart from writing publishing articles does the university (or maybe you can talk about the Dept Public Health specifically) engage in other activities supporting Research Uptake, for example radio, TV and other outreach activities?

A: Through the Directorate of Research the University has started engaging the mainstream media and journalists with a view to fostering a lasting relationship in research reportage and uptake. Of course, individual academics have ongoing relationships with external stakeholders, providing advice and recommendations to Ministries, carrying out community development programmes, and even providing early stage technological solutions to industry. As for the Department of Public Health, we still operate in the ‘traditional’ mode of writing articles but with my training in RUC, plans are on to train the students and even my colleagues in alternative platforms for making their research more visible and ready for uptake.

Q: Do you have any suggestions about how Research Uptake activities at the University of Calabar can be supported further?

A: There are a number of ways that Research Uptake activities can be supported:

  1. Having free access to quality research works, research databases and practical support to prepare Research for Uptake resources would motivate researchers.
  2. There is need to incorporate RU planning in the format of research projects/thesis writing and for it to be part of criteria for grading.
  3. If published articles (in public audience format) will count towards lecturers’ appointment and promotions, then that would provide personal justification/incentive for embarking on RUC activities.
  4. Having a dedicated budget for RU activities from the university management would greatly promote RU activities.
  5. There’s need for a structured RUC Mentorship programme. I am currently developing one I have tagged “Mentor-one-mentor-all (MOMA)”, in which, for impact, a budding researcher would be attached to a more experienced researcher for impact.
  6. Organising inter- and intra universities RUC exchange programmes (and meeting at the Regional Research and Innovation Association conferences like WARIMA) would promote linkages and great networking.

Dr Regina Ejemot-Nwadiaro, from the College of Medical Sciences Department of Public Health at the University of Calabar

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