Designing Effective Research Environment

October 15, 2015

The development of any country is very much dependent on research and innovations. Kenya’s Vision 2030 recognizes that the creation, dissemination and application of knowledge are important tenets for economic expansion. In this blue print, enhanced research, innovations, and inventions in different economic sectors are recommended for sustainable development. However, such activities can only operate and thrive in the right research environment that comes with proper research governance and management policies. Hence institutions and organizations engaging in research must invest in effective research environment.

African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) offers trainings aimed at developing skills to establish and manage effective research environment. At a recent workshop on Research Governance and Management organized by APHRC, we had an opportunity to be taken through this course that gave us tips on how to establish an effective research. The workshop had a wide representation by different organizations and institutions including Multimedia University of Kenya, Egerton University, Daystar University, International Leadership University, Great Lakes University of Kenya, Cooperative University College of Kenya, Moi University, International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Amref Health Africa and KCA University, Kenya amongst others.

“Research governance and management ensures effective execution of funds for research projects,” said Dr. Joseph Gichuru, Director of Operations at APHRC. “It enhances credibility and transparency of running research projects for policy formulation and communication. Research governance also ensures proper utilization of both human and financial resource for research.”

During the workshop we learnt a lot about research governance. Below are some of the perspectives that emerged to be very critical areas of considerations in research governance.

  1. Governance perspectives

Research governance and management can be viewed from different perspectives. This includes functional perspective and structure perspective. Functional perspective includes the legislature, judicial and executive governance. On the other hand, structure perspective classifies governance in according to roles played, for example, hierarchy, relational and networks. Governance structure should give clear roles for the persons in the research docket. Executive governance is a major area of consideration in various institutions with the need for institutional ownership of research as a core business being emphasized. The executive should ensure adequate facilitation and support in research. It is important to have funds for general support, separate from the actual research funds. The internal rules and regulations should be comprehensive to include conflict resolution mechanisms. There should also be well defined mechanisms for the execution of internal rules and mechanisms; monitoring and assessment mechanisms, as well as compliance reviews and audits, especially to ethical issues.

  1. Research Management structure

This includes institutional policies and procedures as well as support departments. It is important for research management to be comprehensive to cover the following aspects; fundraising and grants management, contract offices for negotiating contract with sponsors/funders, proper management systems and offices, research quality reviews and mechanisms of exploiting research outcomes through commercialization, patents, and knowledge exchange among others.

  1. Quality Research Outputs

To enhance quality of research outputs, there is need for continuous training and sensitization on research ethics and processes. For example, every researcher should undertake courses on research ethics and ensure certification after every appropriate period of time (e.g. every 2 years). The research ethics training should also cover graduate students who are undertaking research work. Also, there should be well-established quality assurance mechanisms for determining research outputs. Discussions singled out the implementation of a reward mechanism that is aligned to the quality of research outputs as a good policy for enhancing quality research in institutions. The indicators for quality research outputs to be considered include; publications, quality of graduates and alumni, awards won, inventions and innovations, patents among others.

  1. Effective Communication

Communication is a key aspect in research governance. It is important for research governance to facilitate effective communication between the executive, project implementers and the end users. This should also allow the adoption of new and emerging technologies where appropriate to enhance communication.

  1. Distribution of Power

For partnerships and collaborations, the distribution of power and roles should be well defined. This includes various aspects of the research project; funding, collaboration arrangements, budget and contacting. The definition of roles should also include the level of project execution.

We look forward to more such workshops.

By Alfred Kibor, Egerton University; Josephat Nyagero, AMREF Health Africa; and Ngigi Anastasiah, Multimedia University.