Research shows that that Researchers and Principal Investigators spend 42% of their time on administrative duties and only 58% of their time in real time research. To help researchers concentrate 100% of their time on research, it is critical that research administration and management structures in research institutions and universities are strengthened This was the focus of the 5th Annual EARIMA Conference that was held from December 2-4, 2019 at the University of Nairobi.
The Eastern Africa Research Innovation and Management Association, (EARIMA) is a non-profit professional association of research and innovation managers in East Africa. EARIMA as an association provides a platform for a strong regional network of research and innovation practitioners with the aim of strengthening individual and institutional capabilities in research management across the region.
The two-day conference brought together research managers from several countries across the region, mainly from Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia and Nigeria. EARIMA focuses on research management and innovation management. Their intention is to build capacity within our universities and within the continent.
EARIMA Chairman, Prof. Eli Katunguka, who is also the Vice Chancellor, Kyambogo University in Uganda narrated historical accounts of how EARIMA came into existence. He observed that by researchers from different Universities and research institutions networking together, Africa is bound to contribute significantly to the global knowledge.
Prof. Madara Ogot, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research Innovation and Extension said that research management has not been taken seriously by Kenyan Universities. He opined that research management requires unique skills that will enable principal researchers to concentrate on their technical work and not administration duties. In later deliberations at the conference, it emerged that these unique skills needed are leadership skills, soft skills, communication skills among others. Professor Ogot expressed the need to have all universities of East Africa joining the network to enable the universities to speak with one voice. He urged the secretariat to partner with Inter University Council of East Africa (IUCEA), which is fully supported by all governments of East Africa Community.
On funding research, Gareth MacDonald, from United Kingdom Research Institute,(UKRI) highlighted some of the requirements of funding agencies to ensure that funded projects are managed effectively. “We do due diligence. We check on your procedures and policies. Do you have relevant policies on whistleblowing? When there are breaches of policies, are there established correctional channels for appeals?, he asked while outlining the various needs of the funding agencies. He observed that as funding agencies, they are transparent. They aim at empowering the administrative capacities of research universities and institutes by working together and disseminating best practices. As funding agencies, they are keen on value for money.
Allen Mukhwana, from Africa Academy of Sciences, outlined the need to build capacity of those helping researchers. Priority areas should be training on research management processes, systemic change, and implementation of research policy, communication and engagement.
Various papers were presented at the conference focusing on various aspects of research management and best practices were shared.