Monday, 30 September 2019

Nigeria CVF Forum: The Journey Thus Far


Written by Abiodun S. Momodu[1], Clara Ifeanyi-obi[2] and Faith O. Kasim[3]

Dr Momodu, Dr Ifeanyi-obi, and Dr Kasim are alumni of the CIRCLE Visiting Fellowship programme. They recently initiated a forum for  alumni of this programme based in Nigeria. Here, they reflect on this and their future plans.

At Ibadan, in the month of April 2019, a number of CIRCLE Visiting Fellows (CVFs) gathered together to deliberate on how to sustain the legacy of the experience we had during the fellowship periods between 2015 and 2018. These few CVFs at that meeting agreed that there should be a Nigeria CVF Forum. This birthed the Forum. Three CVFs were subsequently nominated to direct the affairs of the Forum until such a time that we will be able to gather together in our number to do an actual election or selection as may be convenient.

Nigeria-based alumni of the CIRCLE Visiting Fellowship programme at the ACU-UI Next Generation Workshop at the University of Ibadan, April 2019

To keep our activities alive, we agreed at the meeting that held during the ACU-UI Next Generation Workshop held at the University of Ibadan, Ibadan from 2nd to 4th of April 2019 to be involved in the following: (1) publish a book on Climate Change. This book is meant to showcase our various researches as relates to climate change in Nigeria. This project has actually kickstarted and over twenty concept notes have been collected awaiting review for final selection, while negotiation is on-going with would-be publisher; (2) conduct an annual reunion meeting amongst the CVFs in Nigeria with the maiden edition tentatively fixed for March 2020 at  the University of Ibadan; (3) generate a memorandum of understanding/constitution that will define the operations of the Forum as we move forward.

It is important at this point to note that primary purpose of the Forum is to keep alive our various training experiences, in research and leadership, at the various institutions that each of the CVFs had the fellowship. The Nigeria CVF Forum also felt it is significant to become a veritable platform for Climate Research and mentoring for upcoming researchers. The gap noticed by both the Association of Commonwealth Universities and the African Academy of Sciences that led to the implementation of CIRCLE will remain if we do not step in to fill the void. This gap is principally in regard of early career researchers in universities and research institutions that are not exposed to top notch training in research and leadership to take over from senior faculty members. The reverberating effect is the decline in contribution to global body of knowledge in various areas of endeavours, with particular emphasis on climate change. Climate change is a global topical issue particularly as it affects every sphere of life. The understanding of the effect of climate change on every sphere of life has significant input to the formulation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement and the Africa We Want.

To this end, the Nigeria CVF Forum plans to be having annual reunion meetings with the aim to review issues that affects ECRs. Climate Change and national development. How we will go about conducting these activities will be a collective decision that we will all arrive at together. Presently, we have formed a WhatsApp Group to disseminate information and also generate ideas through virtual meetings. We have selected a number of persons to serve as Editorial Committee to oversee the book launch planned for 2020. Hopefully, we will reach out to the Association of Commonwealth Universities and the various management of our home institutions with the details of our activities. It is at this point noteworthy to commend the United Kingdom Government through the Department for International Development (DFID) for facilitating all the activities of CIRCLE. Moving forward, the Nigeria CVF Forum do sincerely hope that with our spread arms, the leaders of ACU and management of our various institutions will help us to rise and meet the daunting challenges in research and leadership training.

Thank you.


[1] Centre for Energy Research and Development, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. Email: abiodunmomodu8@gmail.com; Phone: +2348061399185
[2] Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Emai: clara.ifeanyi-obi@uniport.ed.ng; Phone: +2348033397055, +234802888119
[3] Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria. Email: kasimfaith@gmail.com; +2348055607009


Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Renewed support for strengthening climate change research capacity in sub-Saharan Africa

By George Lakey, CIRCLE Programme Officer


Through renewed funding from the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) is continuing its commitment to supporting climate change research across sub-Saharan Africa through its Climate Impacts Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement (CIRCLE) programme.

Since 2015, the ACU-led CIRCLE programme has been working to strengthen the capacity of African researchers and research institutions to undertake research into the impacts of climate change on local development. Numerous reports have indicated the success of the programme in building the capacity of both individual researchers to undertake quality research and institutions to better support the career development of their researchers.

DFID has been a long-standing supporter of programmes designed to build the research capacity of individuals and organisations, with a report in 2010 noting this as one of their four key priorities. We are therefore delighted that DFID will continue to support this capacity building programme on both an individual and institutional level. On an individual level, the programme will continue to support the Alumni of the CIRCLE Visiting Fellowship (CVF) through two funds; the CIRCLE Publication Fund and the CIRCLE Research Uptake Fund.

CIRCLE Publication Fund

The CIRCLE Publication Fund supports CVF Alumni in paying article processing charges (APCs) to enable them to publish their work open access and contribute more fully to the body of knowledge on the impacts of climate change. To date, CIRCLE has used close to £50,000 GBP to support the publication of over 50 articles. The additional funding provided by DFID will substantially increase this number, contributing further to the impact of CIRCLE.

All publications supported through this fund must be in journals deemed to be prestigious. The majority of journals published in are ranked on Scimajo Journal & Country Rank (SJR), with a large proportion ranked in Quartile 1. The remaining journals have been deemed to be prestigious, with many found on African Journals Online (AJOL), the largest online library of peer-reviewed, African-published scholarly journals. AJOL works to change the flow of scholarly information from North to South and West to East, as well as allowing African researchers to access the work of other African academics to ensure that research produced in Africa is readily available to Africans.

CIRCLE Research Uptake Fund

Research uptake – the process through which research reaches its users – is another DFID priority area as it enhances the impact of programmes and contributes to real change. To this end, CIRCLE implemented a Research Uptake Fund to support CVF Alumni in activities that will contribute to their CIRCLE research being put into use. Three separate calls have distributed 65 awards, totalling over £125,000 GBP. An impressive 3,400 stakeholders have been engaged through these funded activities.

The ACU has extensive experience in delivering programmes aimed at supporting research uptake processes. As a facilitator of research uptake activities, the ACU seeks to ensure that key stakeholders are engaging with important research that can have real-world impact. The research conducted by CVF Alumni, with its focus on the impacts of climate change on local development, is vital in mitigating against a changing environment for communities across sub-Saharan Africa. We are therefore delighted that DFID’s additional funding will allow CIRCLE to continue to support its CVF Alumni in ensuring their research is reaching those who need it most.

Image from Dr Abimbola Oluwaranti's CIRCLE Research Uptake Fund activity


CIRCLE ISP Implementation Fund


As well as supporting individuals, CIRCLE sought to strengthen the capacity of institutions to support the career development of their researchers. 31 research institutions across 9 African countries were supported through the CIRCLE Institutional Strengthening Programme (ISP). The CIRCLE ISP Implementation Fund was designed to provide small amounts of seed funding to institutions to enable them to conduct activities related to their ISP Action Plan. Two rounds of Implementation Funding have been taken place to-date, with approximately £65,000 GBP being dispersed. In round 1, 18 institutions conducted 31 activities, while in round 2 16 institutions conducted 27 activities. A further two rounds of this fund will allow CIRCLE-participating institutions continued access to small grants to fund activities to help embed the ISP within their institution.

Inauguration of the Mentoring Handbook at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Nigeria. Funded through the CIRCLE ISP Implementation Fund.

Non-CIRCLE ISP Implementation Fund

The learning developed through the CIRCLE programme in how to strengthen capacity building processes at African research institutions has been captured in a series of six CIRCLE ISP Good Practice Guides which outline how to design, deliver and monitor an ISP at any institution.

In order to assess the effectiveness and suitability of the guides for wider use, a small grants scheme will be launched for non-CIRCLE institutions. As with the main CIRCLE ISP Implementation Fund, universities would use the funding to support the organisation of workshops, training sessions or developing support materials such as in-house mentoring or training guides. This process allows the sharing of learning from CIRCLE beyond the scope of the programme; extending and enhancing its impact.

The Guides will also be widely promoted, and the first grants scheme will be launched during our 2020 Developing the Next Generation of Researchers workshop, which will be expanded to further disseminate the learning and expertise produced by CIRCLE.

The Climate and Resilience Framework Programme (CLARE)

As well as allowing us to continue to support our participants, the 2-year extension will allow CIRCLE to use its experience and expertise in capacity strengthening to inform the design of the capacity strengthening aspect of DFID’s new Climate and Resilience Framework Programme (CLARE). CIRCLE will carry out several scoping exercises to identify good practice across programmes within the DFID network, and contribute to recommendations on how to expand on successes to date.

For more information about CIRCLE, please email George.Lakey@acu.ac.uk

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Maximising the potential for research impact


By George Lakey, CIRCLE Programme Officer

The CIRCLE Visiting Fellowship (CVF) Programme, where early career researchers based at African institutions complete a yearlong Fellowship at another host institution within Africa, aimed to strengthen the capacity of African scientists to undertake research on climate change and its impacts on local development. 97 CVFs were successfully completed between 2015-2017, resulting in a group of CVF Alumni. Every 6 months since the completion of their Fellowship, CVF Alumni have been asked to complete a Follow-up Report to assess their experiences, successes, and challenges since returning to their home institution. The latest Follow-up Report was conducted in December 2018 and January 2019 and covered the period from July to December 2018. In preparation for the full report being published on ACU website, this blog presents some of the key highlights of the CVF Alumni maximising their potential for research impact.


Image 1. Cohort 1 CVF Alumni at their pre-Fellowship Workshop in 2015



Improving research capacity

CVF Alumni were asked to rate their experiences in key research capacity areas between July and December 2018, including the time they now have to conduct their research. Figure 1 below provides a breakdown of these responses. While it is clear that having the time to conduct their research has been the most challenging aspect of their careers over the 6 month period, over 80% believed that their experiences have improved in this area. Time is a major constraint in improving the capacity of early career researchers to conduct research, and it has been suggested that African researchers have continually spent over 80% of their working week conducting administrative activities (AAS, 2019). Therefore, it is encouraging to see that the skills and experiences gained through the Fellowship are  allowing our CVF Alumni to begin to mitigate this issue.


Figure 1. CVF experiences in key research capacity areas between July and December 2018


Research capacity as quality as well as quantity

A total of 93 articles were submitted to peer-review journals between July and December 2018, with 41 of those submissions being published. However, while volume of publications is important for CIRCLE, the quality of the journals that researchers are submitting to is crucial. Research capacity is about quality as well as quantity. An increase in a researcher’s time to conduct their research not only increases their potential output, but also increases the potential for quality output.



Image 2. Two members of our Cohort 2 CVF Alumni, Ms Sandra Atindana and Dr Daniella Sedegah


Through a support network of supervisors, mentors, and specialist advisors, along with training on journal selection, CIRCLE has placed a strong emphasis on ensuring that CVF Alumni are submitting to ‘reputable’ or ‘prestigious’ journals. While reviewing journals to assess quality can be a challenging process, CIRCLE uses metric databases such as Scimajo Journal & Country Rank (SJR), alongside further desk-based online research, and consultation with project partners. Figure 2 below provides a breakdown of articles submitted to or published in peer-reviewed journals by CVF Alumni between July and December 2018. An incredible 74% of these articles were to journals defined as reputable, while only 11% could be seen to be low quality. In addition. over two thirds of those reputable journals were in SJR Quartiles 1 and 2. By publishing in such prestigious journals, our CVF Alumni are maximising the potential impact of their research, which is essential if the impacts of climate change on development in their locality are going to understood, mitigated and addressed.

Figure 2. Quality of peer-review journals submitted to between July and December 2018


Increasing visibility - conferences and events

Presenting at conferences and events is a further mechanism for contributing to debates on climate change impacts and improving research visibility. Between July and December 2018, our CVF Alumni attended 99 events, presenting at 35 of these. These presentations were located in 13 different countries, with 15 presentations occurring in locations outside the presenter’s home country, including in Australia, Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, Kenya, Rwanda, the United Kingdom, and the United States. While it is essential that research is presented within the locality of where the research was conducted, particularly when the topic of study is the impact of climate change on local development, it is also very impressive to see the quality of CVF Alumni research recognised on an international scale. An international audience being presented with local issues is important for increasing the visibility of those issues and securing international funding and action.




Image 3. Cohort 3 Fellow, Mrs Ibe, attending a climate change conference in California, USA



The CIRCLE Team is continuously amazed at the excellence of our CVF Alumni and we would like to congratulate each and every one of them for their brilliant research into the impact of climate change on local development, a topic of utmost importance. And further, their never-ending endeavour to ensure their research is visible and has impact should be an inspiration to all researchers around the world.

Thank you and well done!

George Lakey
CIRCLE Programme Officer