OPENING REMARKS BY PROF. LUCY IRUNGU, PHD VICE-CHANCELLOR AND PROFESSOR OF ENTOMOLOGY
DURING KENYAN SCIENTISTS MOBILIZATION AND AWARENESS CREATION ON THE UPCOMING EU’S FUNDING SCHEMES ON HORIZON 2020 CALLS FOR PROPOSALS WORKSHOP HELD AT THE MACHAKOS UNIVERSITY HOTEL ON 29TH MAY 2018.
- The workshop organizers
- Officials from the Ministry of Education
- Deputy Vice-Chancellors
- Heads of Departments
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning all. I am happy and pleased to be with you for this important workshop organized by the Ministry of Education specifically the Directorate of Research Management and Development (DRMD) for the purposes of Mobilization and Awareness Creation on the upcoming European Union’s funding schemes on the Horizon 2020. I take this moment to applaud the Ministry of Education of taking proactive steps towards harnessing research and related best practices. Thank you as well, for having Machakos University in your diaries and our interests when research opportunities surface. I warmly welcome the officials from the Ministry who have come to facilitate this workshop. Karibuni sana.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am participating in this workshop both in my official capacity as the Vice Chancellor of this university and as a researcher. It is well known to me that the development of knowledge-societies has made universities to be crucial national assets where many governments are looking to generate and share knowledge through research, produce short-term practical outcomes, commercialize their intellectual property, and chase funding, no matter what it takes to win it. Consequently, universities around the world have scaled up their regard for research from being a core function together with teaching, to becoming a dominant function for university prestige. This way, Machakos University cannot be a robin island. It is important for all of us to know that the Government relies on us, Kenyans rely on us to give directions and solutions. Let us be focused and pace with the rest of the world.
It is a fact that university academic staff serve constantly as the drivers of the overall development of nations through scientific research and innovations. For this reason, governments and a number of organizations continue to invest huge amounts of money in the development of research in universities. In Kenya the GoK has committed 21% GDP for supporting research. Many countries are now ranking their universities according to their research performance. Such a profile has a significant impact on the ability of the university to attract more students, research funds and consultancy contracts. Research has therefore become a major and important factor in economic development in the twenty first century and has become increasingly important in the university context. Emphasis is therefore placed on scholarly productivity and the publication output of academic staff, with less priority being given to teaching and service roles when rewarding performance. This workshop is one such effort that the government is making towards empowering universities to scale up research participation, production, output and impact. With dwindling admissions and teaching opportunities, research is now the center of focus.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today’s workshop presents a chance for us to build collaborations with Europe towards sound and meaningful research. The Horizon 2020 calls for proposals is plat formed on Europe 2020 Strategy that puts forward three mutually reinforcing priorities that Machakos University should exploit:
a) Smart growth: developing an economy based on knowledge and innovation.
b) Sustainable growth: promoting a more resource efficient, greener and more competitive economy.
c) Inclusive growth: fostering a high-employment economy delivering social and territorial cohesion.
Seven flagship initiatives have been put forward by the European Commission which form the basis of collaboration in catalyzing progress under each priority theme:
a) “Innovation Union” to improve framework conditions and access to finance research and innovation so as to ensure that innovative ideas can be turned into products and services that create growth and jobs.
b) “Youth on the move” to enhance the performance of education systems and to facilitate the entry of young people to the labour market.
c) “A digital agenda for Europe” to speed up the roll-out of high-speed internet and reap the benefits of a digital single market for households and firms.
d) “Resource efficient Europe” to help decouple economic growth from the use of resources, support the shift towards a low carbon economy, increase the use of renewable energy sources, modernize our transport sector and promote energy efficiency.
e) “An industrial policy for the globalization era” to improve the business environment, notably for SMEs, and to support the development of a strong and sustainable industrial base able to compete globally.
f) “An agenda for new skills and jobs” to modernize labor markets and empower people by developing their of skills throughout the lifecycle with a view to increase labor participation and better match labor supply and demand, including labor mobility.
g) “European platform against poverty” to ensure social and territorial cohesion such that the benefits of growth and jobs are widely shared and people experiencing poverty and social exclusion are enabled to live in dignity and take an active part in society.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Kenya is emerging as one of Africa’s key growth centers with sound economic policies in place for future improvement. This way, Kenyan researchers and research institutions need to take advantage of the opportunities presented by Europe 2020 strategy to achieve our national desires. Machakos University in seeking to be a leading research institution in Kenya, has a major role in producing knowledge-based resources necessary to sustain the growth momentum. We can brand our university to be known as “The Research University”. This is possible through a sound research culture.
Research Culture and Research Productivity
I for sure know that in order to adopt a research culture that enhances research productivity in their institutions, university leaders both at council and department levels need to come up with clear research goals and ensure such goals are effectively communicated to relevant stakeholders. Universities and other institutions involved in research need to ensure there is good relationships among faculty members as this would go a long way in developing and maintaining a research culture in their respective institutions as well as supporting inter-faculty mentoring initiatives.
Research culture development requires significant allocation of resources to training and development. Institutions or departments with inadequacies in research skills and other personal development issues will definitely require training and other personal assistance in order to be proficient. This can be achieved through programs of continuing education in research and other support related services. In certain instances, cultural change may require resources to be allocated according to the level of motivation of an individual faculty member. In this regard, I am directing the Division of Research to hastily develop a policy on motivating staff to conduct research. Those faculty members whose motivation levels are higher but are of low ability will definitely benefit more from this policy, which should have a training and support services component.
The motivation by the faculty to advance in their discipline is the main idea behind research productivity in many institutions of higher learning. In fact, most disciplines are encouraging their members to work in collaboration and publish research papers in joint authorship so as to uplift the discipline’s standing. In this I am happy to note that I am beginning to witness several initiatives to bring members of staff from different disciplines together to jointly work on proposals. I am also glad to note that at the moment majority of staff are in various groups for purposes of doing research, seeking funds and peer mentorship. I applaud the Division Research for initiating this move and I encourage you to scale it higher so that all staff can benefit right from graduate assistants to professors, myself included.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In research, you don’t quit. You write proposals day in day out, but you don’t win, my advice is, don’t quit. Always remember the anonymous poem “Don’t Quit:”
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a fellow turn about
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow
You may succeed with another blow.
“With those many remarks I now declare this workshop officially opened.”