Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

Strengthening Institutional Research Administration in Uganda: A Case Study on Developing Collaborations among Academic and Research Institutions

Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

Strengthening Institutional Research Administration in Uganda: A Case Study on Developing Collaborations among Academic and Research Institutions

Article excerpt

Introduction

Over the last 15 years, there has been an increase in funding for research and training in Africa. Despite a research environment characterized by the presence of several funded projects at academic and research institutions in sub-Saharan Africa, the pre/post grant award process is deficient in most of these institutions. For instance, a 2010 survey by Makerere University College of Health Sciences, Uganda, on the available information on current and past grants, identified that funding details were available for only one-third of the 58 active grants, with weak systems, policies and infrastructure to manage grants (Nankinga et al., 2011). While all funding agencies have stringent pre/post award guidelines and reporting regulations that require researchers to have up-to-date information at all times, conformity among awarded institutions is ever-growing, and possible irregularities must be handled in a timely manner (Gardner et al., 2006; Adams & Pimple, 2005; Deyhle et al., 1992). However, grants recipient institutions, investigators, and research administrators in Uganda have limited experience in pre-and post-award management, fiscal accountability and scientific reporting requirements for NIH and other international funding agencies. Indeed, an evaluation survey of collaborative strategies to strengthen research administration at Makerere University (collaboration with Swedish International Development Assistance [SIDA] -Sarec) found that key budget information was lacking in most projects, and that the majority of Principal Investigators (Pls) were weak with respect to foreign and grant management processes due to a lack of a central grants management system (Freeman et al, 2009). Hence, financial and material resources from grants to academic institutions are critical for supporting faculty members' research efforts. (Mullen et al., 2008, Garvin et al., 2008, Gumport & Spom, 1999)

The global complexity and competitiveness in the research field, the prevalence of interdisciplinary research, the local and international interest in research combined with diverse stakeholders of various research interests, as well as the dynamic research funding environment create a challenging research environment for scientists in Africa. In many sub-Saharan African countries there is a weak infrastructure for research; the research administration and legislative framework has not kept pace with international trends such as ethical conduct of research, regulatory compliance, dissemination of research findings and material, and intellectual property rights. This has contributed to institutional failure to write, submit, win, and manage competitive research or project grants. Research administration is key in instituting scholarship and strengthening research behavior at academic and research institutions (Atkinson et al., 2007; Cole, 2007; Langley, 2007). Likewise, faculty education in what is required to write, win and manage competitive grants is critical to developing and maintaining research programs and attracting external grants and contracts. (Rice, 2000)

The International Extramural Associates Research Development Award (IEARDA) Program was created to develop institutional capacity to support external research grant proposals, provide administrative structure to manage grant awards, and increase biomedical and behavioral research at academic and research institutions outside the United States of America. The NIH established the Extramural Associates Program to produce a cadre of academic research administrators who could promote the participation of institutions in rigorous biomedical and behavioral research programs. The program is administered within the Division of Special Populations of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). As part of the award requirements, the participating institution nominates an International Extramural Associate (IEA) who is trained in grant processes used by the NIH and other federal agencies to support biomedical and behavioral research and training. …

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