Thursday 27 September 2018

CIRCLE Achievements: The CIRCLE Visiting Fellowship Alumni

by The CIRCLE Team

CIRCLE is now halfway through our one-year extension, and we have been busy collecting data from all our CIRCLE Visiting Fellowship (CVF) alumni and institutions involved in the Institutional Strengthening Programme. We thought it would be good to share news on all their achievements reported over the last 6 months, to give you an idea of the impact of our programme!

One of the overarching aims of the CIRCLE Programme is to strengthen the capacity of African scientists to undertake research on climate change and its local impacts on development. The CIRCLE Visiting Fellowship aims to help achieve this aim, by funding 100 Fellowships for African climate change researchers to spend a year at a host institution within Sub-Saharan Africa. To monitor progress, CIRCLE invites all our Fellows to complete follow-up surveys every three months during their fellowship, and every six months after its completion. Between 2015 and 2017, three Cohorts took part in the CVF Programme, with the third and final Cohort settling back into their home institution in December 2017.

In June 2018, CIRCLE invited all our alumni to complete a follow-up survey on progress and achievements over the last 6 months. As such, Cohort 1 were 2.5 years post-fellowship, Cohort 2 1.5 years post-fellowship and Cohort 3 6-months post-fellowship.

Of the 96 Fellows who were invited to complete the survey, 74 Fellows responded. Since returning to their home institution, our CVF Alumni reported improvements in training and development opportunities, opportunities to apply newly developed skills and experiences, and their overall responsibilities and career opportunities. There was however little improvement in their time to conduct their research, with female respondents more likely to respond having a reduction in time. Although, many Fellows have indicated that the increase in time constraints are a result of their involvement in CIRCLE, as the skills and experience gained has resulted in increased responsibilities.
The most commonly reported challenges in applying skills were time, resources and funding, as well as gaining wider-institutional support or recognition of their experience. Those that were able to share their skills were more likely to do so through presentations at conferences/workshops, through mentoring, or by applying their skills in a new role. We had 19 Fellows report that they had been promoted, with 12 of these indicating that this promotion has been influenced by their participation in CIRCLE. 61 Fellows reported that they were mentoring other academics at their institution, which is higher than the number reported 6 months ago.

Now that the Fellowships have been completed, we were interested to see if any of the relationships and research developed through CIRCLE were still ongoing. We found that 84% of CVF alumni were still in contact with or were actively collaborating with their host supervisor and 82% with other CVFs outside of their home institution. We also found that 59% of CVF Alumni were undertaking further research related to their CIRCLE research projects during this reporting period.

An incredible 128 peer-review journal articles have been submitted since January 2018, with 51 being published to date and a further 17 being accepted and awaiting publication. 44 submitted articles were focused on CIRCLE research, with 15 published and 9 currently awaiting publication. Where data was available, 93% of peer-review submissions were to reputable journals, with 53% of these to high-ranking Q1-4 journals. While CIRCLE research fared even better, with 94% of CIRCLE research articles submitted to reputable journals and 56% of these to high-ranking Q1-4 journals. Our Alumni have also been busy attending a range of conferences and events over the last 6 months, with 94 events attended and CVFs presenting research at 56 of these.

In addition to publishing, 54% of our Fellows have been involved in a total of 74 applications for grants and funding since January, with 14 successful applications to date and almost half a million USD being awarded. 65% of our CVF Alumni have also been involved in 107 collaborations with a range of successful outputs including policy briefs, book chapters, events, and community outreach activities.

We are very proud of our alumni and are pleased to see that the training and support delivered by both CIRCLE and their home and host institutions is continuing to have a positive impact on their personal and professional development. We only have another six months left of our programme, but we’re certain that we will see even more reported achievements from our Fellows throughout the remainder of the programme.

If you would like to find out more about our Fellows, you can read their profiles on our website.
A full copy of the January – June 2018 CVF Follow-up Report will soon be available on our website.

Tuesday 4 September 2018

Settling home away from my CIRCLE home: Which one is which one?

By Beaven Utete, Senior Lecturer, Chinhoyi University of Technology, Zimbabwe and Cohort 3 CIRCLE Visiting Fellow, University of Ibadan, Nigeria

Beaven Utete was awarded a CIRCLE Visiting Fellowship to conduct research at the University of Ibadan, focusing on fisheries and water resources in peri-urban spaces. Here, Beaven provides a unique insight into his personal and professional development through the CIRCLE journey.

Image 1. Do you remember them? If you see any of them call me or beep me!!!!!! Fellow CVF 3 colleagues at AAS in Kenya

Jetting into a hot humid slightly drizzling Lagos International Airport, Nigeria at approximately 1734 hours in March 2017 enroute to University of Ibadan, Oyo State I knew the climate had literally changed for me and I had to adapt or “perish’’. Alas!! The weather changes were not at all the “monster’’ that had invaded my head, life and space. Wait!! I was whisked away into a nice taxi and a very standard hotel for the night. That was the appetiser!! Ooh my gosh I was not prepared for the tasty sting of the sumptuous looking pepper soup with soft nicely cooked cattle skin called ponmo (forgive my bad Yoruba!!!) and dented with delicious okra and a very feisty looking brown Amala which later turned out to be my favourite meal in Nigeria. Let's leave the food please shall we? After one eye opening drive early the next morning I arrived in a nicely preserved “ancient’’ looking cultured city full of hustle and bustle (I mean it!!!)

Image 2. Me in the middle and my fellow CVFs Dr Verdiana Tulimanyiwa and Mr Jackson, all from Tanzania

So you think that’s my story? No my real story began when I met this well-mannered fast talking woman I hardly heard her kkkk most of the time. Remember my British English versus her Nigerian-Yoruba-English accent now you can imagine. She was a God fearing, a prayer warrior as compared to my Anglican background! She introduced herself and I knew immediately the roller coaster ride had begun. From there onwards I was her bodyguard, research assistant, CIRCLE research fellow, student and ooh Bible student no time to settle at all and was busy setting up the research protocols, collecting equipment and setting a pragmatic sampling itinerary. Remember this is my third day in Ibadan, the formalities for her could as well follow after work. I literally knew my places of sampling before formal introductions. Keep in mind that my mind, body, soul and taste buds had lost 2 hours thanks to the different time zones in the West and South of Africa I had to adapt fast and quickly. Nigerians do not walk but they run, we Zimbabweans stroll like it’s an easy Sunday morning, needless to remind you of the language barrier by now I was an accomplished sign reader (yes laugh your lungs out). By the second week I had read more than was necessary to know the water bodies I was sampling. From there the diet was a part of me and was no cry baby (yes I am beating aloud my own drum) and would literally wake up at midnight and work with no hand holding and it’s in my DNA now and forever.

Image 3. The full complement at University of Ibadan after the final CIRCLE presentations!!

Literally, I had to learn collaboration, team work, academic flexibility, plasticity and survival tactics, Nigeria waits for no one especially the lazy man. What I got is a culture shock, an academic bamboozlement, culinary awakening, and time management dexterity. If you think I am saying Ibadan was all work think again, I actually earned a nickname of Mr Sanchez following a departed former Arsenal player at the nearby sports clubs. CIRCLE was all fun and fun for me indeed and let’s do it again if we can shall we? I miss my lifelong friends and collaborators and curious sights in the markets and roads as the motorcycles (my favourite ride) criss-cross Apete Road, Ibadan Polytechnic, Eleyele and stride towards Asejire.

Image 4. Back home doing my CIRCLE Research Uptake stakeholder consultation at Maturi Fishing Cooperative in Zimbabwe

Now I am back home in Zimbabwe behold a new man, independent, fun loving and enjoying my memories of my CIRCLE home (Nigeria), and check my profile online on the strides I have made since my sojourn!!! The timetable for me does not matter I work anytime any day and my body totally lost the 2 hours (make it 4 for the return journey). Back home I now do not know any timetable and I detest targets because they limit you! I literally work anytime and anywhere yes even in the middle of the lake I can begin to write a publication or a framework or a review. I have made strides in my professional career, my family life and social life. For me the Researcher Development Framework is not just some scorecards it's now in my blood to crosscheck my progress every day and set priorities for the next day. The culture shock in Nigeria helped turn around my perspectives and literally my work ethics have shifted a gear up. The biggest lesson I learnt is to respect another person and all that defines them if ever you want to succeed in research and academia. I exit!!! 

My success and fun owes to CIRCLE of course but I never forget Professor Bernadette Tosan Fregene (Aquaculture and Fisheries Management, University of Ibadan, now at The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan Nigeria).

Image 5. Me and Professor Tosan Bernadette Fregene after my final presentation for the CIRCLE component of Nigeria

Let’s do it again!!!
Beaven Utete (CVF Alumni 2017-Zimbabwe-Nigeria)