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Table 2 Summaries of key points in regard to externally funded research

From: Needs assessment to strengthen capacity in water and sanitation research in Africa: experiences of the African SNOWS consortium

Point number Summary
2.1 Most partners said that there was no centralised information on calls for research bids and no organised sharing of information to improve the university’s record bidding for research projects.
2.2 While the universities had a few staff successful in obtaining external funding, there seemed to be no clear strategy regarding research, little leadership or guidance from the senior staff, and also no training to share the existing expertise or “research strategy”, if it existed. Nor are there succession plans for research leadership.
2.3 Local university guidance on appropriate terms in new research contracts would be helpful, too often new researchers accept contract clauses that are impossible to keep to.
2.4 Guidance from senior researchers and administrators should give the lead researcher a good idea of local university rules on finance, disbursements, and end-of-year carryovers. Reporting and procurement are likely to clash with donor requirements and therefore need early resolution.
2.5 A clear plan as to who will handle the research project finance and with what type of account would minimise the common delays to disbursements. Authorising back-up staff signatories for payments and reports helps the researcher to complete tasks, reports, and procurement on time.
2.6 Often, researchers new to outside funding are unsure of how to manage the recruiting, contracting, and management of temporary, fixed-term, and community-based staff or volunteers, which can lead to problems as these individuals may become responsible for doing important work in very isolated areas with poor communications and access. Cash payments might be necessary.
2.7 Researchers in these universities too often underestimated the time needed to prepare for and gain ethics approval for the research proposed and many staff feel that the committee may at times lack the knowledge or training needed to properly protect the interests of the public.
2.8 Another common weak point for researchers was their lack of access to secure and back-up university servers to store the research data on. At times that caused certain donors to withdraw research grants. Planning to protect samples from fire, flood, theft, or copying can also be a challenge in isolated rural areas.
2.9 In terms of research ethics, challenges can include scanty knowledge of the research protocol and a reluctance to inform the ethics committee of changes to that protocol. Likewise, a reluctance to inform the authorities of any shortcomings in terms of confidentiality or re-usage of medical samples collected previously for different purposes is not that unusual.