by Professor Philippa C. Ojimelukwe, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Nigeria
CIRCLE ISP Coordinator
The Michael Okpara University of Agriculture and the CIRCLE Implementation Fund co-funded the university to carry out three activities as part of their institutional strengthening programme. These activities have conducted training in research ethics, scientific writing and communication skills, and provided a forum for researcher-stakeholder collaboration. Here, Professor Philippa C. Ojimelukwe shares with us her thoughts on the Researcher Open Day held in March 2018 which strengthened communication between researchers and research stakeholders.
Have you ever wondered why so much research work is carried out in universities and other tertiary institutions? Research projects are undertaken by undergraduate students, postgraduate students and the researchers/lecturers themselves. Imagine the number of research projects found in the libraries of universities and other higher institutions - a lot of information “sitting comfortably” on the shelves. Journal articles, conference proceedings and books are written in highly technical language which although they are very important to the academic community, means very little to the general populace.
In many higher institutions found in developing countries, there is no relationship between the institution, the public, and the private sector; while information and innovations required to move society forwards sits on the shelves, communities and private sector grope in darkness for the same information; the missing link is a communication gap between the researchers and end users of research. The CIRCLE Institutional Strengthening Programme (ISP) drew our attention to this essential component of relating with the public by extending research results to end users in a practical manner. We realized that the research cycle is incomplete unless research results and innovations are extended to end users. The beauty of research is better appreciated when the products of research are used to solve societal problems and end users are benefitting from research endeavours. Much of our research information never gets to the end user. Innovation and development should be guided by the outcomes of research in order to achieve sustainability.
Through generous support from the CIRCLE Implementation Fund and the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU), Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike organized a researcher Open Day Forum on the 29th of March, 2018. The major objectives of the workshop were:
- To create an enabling environment for interaction between stakeholders in agriculture, the private sector and the MOUAU research team.
- To acquaint farmers and other stakeholders with relevant improved agricultural technologies available in the university.
- To develop participatory strategies and intervention measures that will enhance the capability of farmers for improved agricultural production and income generation.
Researchers were invited to discuss their research activities with potential end users and show case products of their research. Products of agricultural research were exhibited. Farmers also came with their own products for exhibition.
The turnout for this event was impressive. People from all walks of life were there for the Open Day Forum. Traditional rulers, farmers, civil servants, private enterprises and entrepreneurs were amply represented. After the opening ceremonies, there was a very interesting interactive session between research end users and the researchers themselves. Leading researchers in the university had a lot of questions to answer; a lot of clarifications to make and a lot of lessons to learn from the general public. The exhibition proper took place after the discussion session. Colleges and units in the university showcased the products of their research activities and interacted freely with the public. The keynote address was delivered by retired Professor C.C. Chinaka. At the end of the forum, non-university stakeholders received a “certificate of participation”.
It was an opportunity for researchers to prove their worth. It also sensitized researchers about the expectations of the society from them. It offered an opportunity for researchers to re-orient their research endeavours to tangible societal problems based on felt needs. On the part of stakeholders and research product end users, many of them were amazed at the technologies, products and innovations that were available at Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike, Abia State, Nigeria. Many stakeholders from the public sector admitted that their perception of universities had never gone beyond an institution where you can send your ward to obtain a degree and qualify for “a white collar job”. Many of the stakeholders indicated willingness to collaborate with the university on different areas of research based on interest. Collaborations and linkages were established. It was clear that a symbiotic relationship between researchers in the university and the public was needed to drive sustainable development. The need for a structural platform for University-private sector mutual interaction has been established by this workshop and cannot be over-emphasized.
For more inquiries please contact:
Prof. P.C. Ojimelukwe (CIRCLE ISP Coordinator) firstname.lastname@example.org