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

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