Staff’s poor engagement in research, matter of concern: Dr Teshome

Research, the engine of growth in any field is prerequisite for higher education institutions that attract probing minds from across board and ensure scientific atmosphere where they grow and harness myriad innovations that have socio-economic implications. AMU, having gauged its gravity is motivating academic staff and despite hiccups Executive Research Directorate firmly believes that engagement in this phenomenon will rise and even female researchers will commit themselves, said Executive Director, Dr Teshome Yirgu.

Executive Research Directorate’s budget is rising, this academic year, 2019-20, its annual outlay is ETB 31,739,300 (3.21%) of total recurrent budget, a bit higher compared to 2018-19’s ETB 24.203,100, while for the year 2017-18, it was 18.6 Million.

Dr Teshome said, though volume of research is expanding, yet this budget will be adequate as we also secure global funds; last year, we could broadly get ETB 18 Million and this time round as well expect to bag more funds. He informed that Ministry of Health is ready to pump in huge fund of ETB 90 Million in all Ethiopian universities for ‘Traditional Medicinal Plants’ Conservation and Research Development Projects; AMU said to have signed the agreement and expects quite substantial amount.

Speaking on project variants, he said, we have four research funding schemes i.e. Comprehensive Grand projects that are interventional and multi-disciplinary in nature, generally last 4-to-5 years and consume 50% of total budget, Thematic Area-based projects claim 30%; while Small-Grant projects for young and Small-Grant for Female researchers consume 5% & 10% of overall budget respectively.

On academic staff’s lackadaisical response, he said, according to the research guidelines all academic staff members must devote 25% of their working hours in research activities; an instructor has stipulated 12 credit hours per week of which 3 hours is left for research but over 50% don’t comply with the guidelines. Time and again, I have shared this concern with AMU Management and hope things will get better in future.

Exemplifying increasing mandate, he said, previously there were eight research coordination offices and two institutes reporting to me, now 8 more research centre directors are added in the list, it means in total 18 of them are cooperative.

Unraveling projects details, he said, the overall ongoing projects are 379, 56 are completed and 89 new research proposals are expected. Ongoing projects are generally not completed in time, sometimes 1-year projects go up to 5 years, reason being that staff often gets busy in different activities; at times, there are no vehicles to travel and there are many issues that put spanner in projects’ life cycle.

On novel ideas, he said, we are looking into community-oriented projects; for example, my own grand research project is focusing the issue related with marginalized community i.e. potters. And this year, we expect grand project that would look into the issue of timely breast-feeding for children of female employees in Gamo and Gofa zones. Therefore, of ongoing 7 Grand projects, 5 projects focusing health-related crucial issues.

Citing achievements, he said, collaboration with national clients i.e. Ministry of Health, Culture, Ministry of Higher education and international clients, Vlirous, RUNRES, AGRUMIG and many more are on the cards.

The challenges staring at him, he said, male and female staff engagement in research is 54 and 48.7% respectively. To give fillip to those non-performing staff participation, he said, we are training both female and male staff on software, comprehensive grand research project writing skill, proposal development and manuscript writing. It will groom them and turn them into a model for others in the country. Lack of transport is the bottle-neck that scuttles our mandate; therefore, most of the staff members go for thematic projects that get completed in short period of time with little efforts.

University is likely to take appropriate disciplinary measure against those researchers who don’t complete projects in stipulated timeframe and no new proposals will be allowed to them. Mostly researchers are not publishing in international journals, last year, we had only 38 papers published, while we expects more and moreover, if any staff member publishes paper in a reputable international journal, he or she is entitled for ETB 10,000, but very few came forward to claim the same.

Research Directorate urgently needs vehicles, offices and laptops for researchers which are must; and in the absence of these things either precipitates failure or shore up success has to be owned by all, he averred.

(Corporate Communication Directorate)