WACCBIP hosts first Crick African Network Research Methods Workshop
The West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) has hosted the first research methods workshop under the Crick African Network initiative in partnership with The Francis Crick Institute. The workshop, organised for early-career African researchers, was held from 15th to 16th December, 2017 with the aim of building capacity to produce high-quality research study design and proposal development towards improving the management of infectious diseases in Africa.
Twenty-two postdoctoral researchers from across Africa participated in the two-day workshop, connecting with experts in various biomedical research fields from the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens and The Francis Crick Institute. Following its aim to provide a platform for mentorship and training towards the development of quality research grant proposals, the workshop featured lectures and presentations from seasoned researchers on research methodology and grant writing. Participants were also given the opportunity to present their research proposals for discussion and for direction towards improving them.
Highlighting the importance of empowering and training scientists by investing resources towards building their capabilities, Prof. Gordon Awandare, Director of WACCBIP, expressed pride in the Centre’s association with the workshop, particularly as the Centre’s faculty is largely made up of young scientists. He was speaking at the pre-workshop symposium held on December 14, where he welcomed the participants to the University of Ghana, encouraging them to make the most of the expertise on offer from both WACCBIP and The Crick. He was expectant that the workshop would impact each participant in many ways and pointed out that WACCBIP was happy to be part of the partnership. Prof. Awandare was keen for them to harness the benefits of the partnership beyond the workshop.
“I am happy to welcome this esteemed group of scientists to the sharing of ideas and research findings at WACCBIP. We are made up of young scientists, so we are proud to be associated with such a workshop which will empower and train scientists by investing in their resources and capabilities,” Prof. Awandare said. “WACCBIP wants to sustain this partnership and leverage its expertise to tackle the most challenging scientific questions underpinning health and diseases.”
The partnership, called The Crick African Network, includes four other institutions across the African continent. Its primary purpose is to put in place a fellowship programme to train African researchers to tackle infectious diseases in their home countries. In all, 18 two-year fellowships will be offered to African postdoctoral scientists under the 3-year fellowship scheme. The workshop was the first of a series to be held at each of the partner institutions with the aim of promoting the fellowship scheme and helping potential applicants across the continent to develop strong proposals.
“The Francis Crick Institute, by this workshop, wants to promote the fellowship schemes that will help potential applicants develop strong proposals for funding to contribute to research into infectious diseases,” said Prof. Robert J Wilkinson, Group Leader at the Crick and Director of the Crick African Network programme. “By delivering quality training, we want to establish research collaborations across Africa and to contribute to African scientific excellence by mentoring and developing the next generation of research leaders.”
Prof. Wilkinson praised WACCBIP for making giant strides in strengthening the capabilities of talented scientists across the West African sub-region and was thankful to the University of Ghana for hosting the first workshop.
Welcoming the partnership and subsequent collaboration with the University, Prof. George Obeng Adjei, Director of Research at the Office for Research, Innovation & Development (ORID), the research management arm of the University of Ghana, was pleased that WACCBIP and the Crick were organising a workshop with the sole purpose of facilitating training in research methods and design.
“ORID is mandated to coordinate research and we believe that this workshop is in line with ORID’s priorities. We consider the Francis Crick Institute as a leading biomedical research institution and your collaboration with WACCBIP is laudable,” Prof. Obeng Adjei said. “I happen to be involved with many ethics committees in the country and the issue of appropriate research design has been key. If research is improved, it will go a long way to help sustain African scientists.”
The head of the Department of Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology (BCMB) at the University of Ghana, Dr. Lydia Mosi, also welcomed the partnership and underlined the importance of the training workshop, which she said the department was proud to be associated with. She welcomed participants and encouraged them to make the most of the opportunity to improve their knowledge and skills.
“The department is honoured to be hosting this workshop. [It] is also a privilege to be part of this workshop as it involves the best brains and minds in cutting-edge scientific research,” Dr. Mosi said. “I will entreat you to make time to interact with faculty members and explore the department.”
Dr. Yolande Harley, faculty research manager at the Wellcome Centre for Infectious Diseases Research in Africa at the University of Cape Town and facilitator of the workshop, expressed gratitude to the University of Ghana and stated that she was delighted to be present at the workshop. She explained the purpose of the workshop and the importance of the collaborations the Crick African Network will foster.
“We want to make science exciting and bigger with more collaborations for researchers in Africa. An exciting part for Crick Africa is that it does not only seek to have South-South collaborations or South-North collaborations, but most importantly [also] to build bridges across all triangular relationship,” Dr. Harley said. “This, we hope, will strengthen and contribute to science research knowledge from young talented scientists across all borders.”
The pre-workshop symposium offered participants an overview of the research priority areas of the Crick, as well as WACCBIP and its partner research institute in the University of Ghana, the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR), with presentations of some of the research studies conducted by faculty from the Crick and WACCBIP.
Speaking about the priority areas of the NMIMR, Prof. Kwabena Mante Bosompem, Director of the Institute, underlined the University of Ghana’s objective to leverage research in its quest to make significant contributions to national and sub-regional development. He mentioned that the partnership with WACCBIP has been key to the fulfilment of this objective, where the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research is concerned.
“NMIMR seeks to fulfil all our mandates and we have taken a position as a front runner in the prevention, detection, and control of emerging and re-emerging diseases in the sub-region.” Prof. Bosompem said. “One of our major research mandates, is to build comprehensive data on samples we collect on all diseases and this is to leverage us to the next realm of biomedical and human medicine. We also want to bring commercialisation and extreme relevance into African research in the future.”
He also emphasised the need for focus on scientific research to accelerate African development. He explained that the workshop was in order because it sought to provide the foundation for the conduct of quality research in Africa.
“We are in a period of social and economic development and the position of Africa is unique, as there is a lot to be emulated from the developed countries. Science and research is very critical, and Africa needs competent scientists to solve most health issues. [Having the] resources for scientific funding is very important and our young scientists should be able to communicate clearly to decision-makers and policy-makers to meet our research interests,” he said.
The workshop, designed to equip participants with research proposal development and grant writing skills, covered on the first day advanced research methodology, research design and execution, and mentorship on science careers facilitated by Professors Awandare and Wilkinson. On the second day, participants were taken through grant writing, the requirements for producing successful grant applications, funding opportunities, and information on the Crick African Career Accelerator Fellowships. Both days of the workshop featured breakout sessions for hands-on guidance on research proposal development. Participants were guided on advanced and effective strategies in research question formulation, execution, analysis, and presentation.
There were lectures on statistical considerations in research and graphical presentation of data, studies of pathogenesis in humans, metabolomics, and flow cytometry. Lectures were facilitated by faculty from the Crick, the University of Cape Town in South Africa, and the University of Ghana.
Prof. Robert Wilkinson thanked WACCBIP for organising the workshop and for ensuring that proceedings ran smoothly and on schedule. He complimented the WACCBIP team for providing excellent administrative and logistic support for the workshop.
Prof. Gordon Awandare, in his closing remarks, thanked the facilitators from The Francis Crick Institute for their presence and the participants for attending the conference. He encouraged participants to maintain the networks they had formed over the two-day period. He reiterated WACCBIP’s commitment to the Crick African Network partnership and was hopeful that postdoctoral researchers at WACCBIP would benefit from the fellowships that the initiative would offer.