This resulted in the doubly ineffective reality that PIs were distracted from research leadership to fulfill duties of accountability and management – functions for which they were untrained and inexpert. This setup compromised both the quality of research management and the quality of the research. The Africa Research Management Capacity Strengthening Programme is designed to address this critical shortcoming in the research ecosystem by supporting a vibrant, professional, effective and transparent research culture at universities and research institutions.
The Science for Africa Foundation (SFA Foundation), a nonprofit, pan-African and public charity organistion based in Nairobi, Kenya, is implementing the Programme, which seeks to build the expertise necessary to create and sustain robust research enterprises and environments at African research institutions by addressing systemic challenges through key interconnected areas of work, including institutional leadership, sustainability, the establishment of standards, and development of individual capacities..
The Programme seeks to create awareness, engagement, and continuity of support for strengthening research management functions in institutions, across generations of leadership and senior academic staff. This will build institutional memory in order to strengthen research management across successive generations of leadership. .
The Programme defines sustainability as the process of change in which the exploitation of resources, prioritisation of investments and technological development are synergistic and enhance current and future human needs and aspirations.
It translates to working with institutions to create sustainable research enterprises that are supported by sustainable research management, financial processes and career pathways. The Programme supports the development of mechanisms to ensure that institutions become self-sufficient in managing their research enterprises. This can be achieved through full cost recovery and cost allocation models and maintaining transparent budgeting
The Programme is developing the Good Research Management Practice Standard as a tool for research institutions to use for strengthening their research systems, benchmarking, and enabling institutional assessment for continuous improvement.
Research management is expanding in scope and complexity. Specialist skills are needed to enable researchers, who have been selected competitively to implement their research, to focus on it. There has been a healthy and inevitable trend of transitioning research management responsibility from academic personnel to professional research management personnel. The Programme is enabling the training of individuals working in research management functions to promote the notion of the research management ‘career’ pathway in institutions, supported by an appropriate infrastructure.