GW4 researchers part of international team to develop research management capacity and deliver intercontinental partnerships

January 25, 2021

In an exciting new collaboration, a team drawn from five research organisations in the UK, and three in Africa are working together to build capacity for research management and administration at their own universities and beyond. 

Staff in Africa from the University of Cape Town, the University of the Western Cape and the African Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology and, in the UK, from the University of the West of England, and the GW4 Alliance – the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter– are bringing together research development and management expertise to address barriers to north-south and south-south collaborations. 

The project team is being led by Victoria Nembaware of the University of Cape Town and Simon Glasser of the University of Bristol.

Simon Glasser, Global Challenges Research Development Manager at the University of Bristol said: “I’m delighted to be working with colleagues across the GW4 Alliance and UWE, as well as with our African partners on this project. By bringing together research development and research management expertise our project aims to address the barriers to conducting north-south and south-south collaborations. It will help develop research managers and administrators capacity to build and deliver research partnerships across countries and continents. Funding from GW4 will help to support some of the activities coming from this award such as network building and knowledge exchange workshops.”

The project involves an online survey among research managers and administrators (RMAs) across team members’ networks, designed to identify the skills and resource gaps and the operational and infrastructural challenges that RMAs face in both Africa and the UK. The project team is very keen to hear from as many people as possible. If you work in this area you are invited to take part in the survey via this link:

By compiling and creating resources for competency-based training and best practice, the team also hope to develop RMAs’ capacity to build and deliver research partnerships professionally and equitably across countries and continents.  For RMAs working in donor countries, a better understanding of the local context in which their partners operate will also help strengthen collaboration and impact.

Dr Jane Khawaja, GW4 Director, said: “We are delighted to help support this research project. Collaboration sits at the heart of the GW4 Alliance, not only working with partners across our region but also nationally and internationally, so it is fantastic to see projects like this aiming to develop research capacity and build research partnerships professionally and fairly across countries and continents.”

As well as the knowledge/skills gap scoping study, the project will involve conducting exchange visits, delivering an online knowledge exchange workshop and developing a competency-based draft training curriculum.  The collaboration is also extending participants’ networks and building their knowledge of evidence-based practice, which will support African institutions’ capacity to sustainably deliver research programmes.

The project forms part of the International Research Management Staff Development Programme (IRMSDP).  IRMSDP is an initiative of the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) in collaboration with the UK’s Association of Research Managers and Administrators (ARMA).  Its aim is to enhance south-south and north-south collaborations, build mutual understanding and appreciation of different cultures, and co-create resources that will benefit the wider research management community of practice.  ReMPro Africa, an initiative of the AAS, aims to fill critical gaps in the African research ecosystem to support a vibrant research culture and leadership at universities and research institutions.

This project, SMARTLife – Sustainable Management and Administration for Research: Training across the project Lifecycle – emerged through a rigorous process in which teams were first selected in the UK and Africa and then matched to form six combined international teams. 

The draft curriculum and a report on the project findings will be disseminated through the AAS and the various participating institutions and affiliated organisations.  The team hopes that the participating universities will continue to engage beyond this initiative and build their respective networks to facilitate further collaborations.