Makerere University Seeks to Involve Communities in New Scientific Research

 Makerere University Seeks to Involve Communities in New Scientific Research

These efforts are funded and supported by Government of the Republic of Uganda

 Makerere University is moving to involve communities more as faculty, students engaging key stakeholders including Non-Governmental Organizations, Community Service Organizations, Government bodies among others come up with research and innovation outputs. These outputs are directed towards contributing to Uganda’s development efforts.  This was revealed by Prof. William Bazeyo, Chairperson Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF) on Tuesday May 25th, 2021 during the Mak-RIF/College of Health Sciences Open day where a number of research innovations the fund has so far facilitated were showcased

“The communities in most cases have had a solution or two for their problems or challenges but those solutions may not be adequate. When you involve them, they tell you what they think and then you think through your science on how to improve the proposed solution in an effort to positively change the status quo” noted Prof. Bazeyo. He says with this approach when the researchers or innovators finally go back to inform the community/communities the need for a change in approach or even design of the proposed solution, the innovation can be easily adopted since implementation is also done with community members.  

Prof. Bazeyo who said they were vetting up to 500 research proposals recently submitted for the third round of funding (Mak-RIF3) added that their focus is on supporting and conducting multidisciplinary research even if the biggest chunk of proposals were from the College of Health Sciences. 

Annually, the Government of the Republic of Uganda allocates Shs.30billion (about $8million) to Makerere University Research and Innovation Fund which researchers can utilize under different funding categories which are all in line with the National Development Plan (NDP) III. 

At the Open Day, up to 30 research and innovation projects were showcased among which was a project to set up the Tissue and Organ Biobank for an ovum, sperm, umbilical cord and stem cells in addition to the Low-Cost Medical Ventilator code-named Bulamu Ventilator. This ventilator is meant to help patients with breathing problems which comes in handy especially now that the country is experiencing yet another Wave of COVID-19. The number of people requiring high dependency and intensive care services are reported to be increasing again after a few months of reduced numbers of people falling critically ill with the viral respiratory disease.

One of the innovations showcased at the Mak-RIF/CHS Open Day is the Low-Cost Medical Ventilator code-named Bulamu Ventilator

Other researches presented include a project on setting up an alcohol, drugs and addictions surveillance system, a mobile phone-based patient follow-up package with Medical Intervention for HIV positive clients to promote social distancing in the wake of COVID-19 and studies on malaria focused on among others understanding development of immunity and drug resistance, which is increasingly becoming a challenge to treating the disease in Uganda. Uganda is still battling with malaria as the 3rd highest global burden and the 7th highest cause of deaths. 

However, even as these researches are key for the country to achieve its development targets, researchers still face challenges of funding as the resource envelope remains slim. 

Presentations to share Research and Innovation outputs characterized the engagement

Prof. Bazeyo for instance said that while government allocates the $8million annually, donors provide much more money than that though most times it is pegged to specific research that interests them and may sometimes not directly be implemented to address or respond to the country’s most critical problems/challenges.  He says as government appreciates research, it would be helpful if the envelope is increased to about $20million annually. 

Commenting on this, Makerere University Vice-Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe who officiated at the Open Day said there is a need for mindset change for especially people who manage the government resources noting that some are unaware of how intensive research can spur transformation. “They now would love to give money but it is not there. When the situation improves, they will give. In 2017 for instance our total research budget was Shs.90billion but this has been increased to 300billion”, he said adding that in 2017, researchers at the University had 400 peer reviewed publications but these too increased to 1500 last year (2020) making the University second to University of Cape Town in Africa.  

He said the COVID-19 pandemic period particularly presented an opportunity for researchers to show what they can do.  He said that the Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund received up to 200 proposals when they issued a special call for solutions related to the pandemic and managed to fund half of them. 

He noted that while they are encouraging multidisciplinary research, the College of Health Sciences remains the flagship and has been ranked second in clinical research globally.

 “We have potential to become even number one if we work harder and we are given the necessary support”, he said.  

However, with funds currently available, Prof. Bazeyo encourages more researchers to apply for funding at the National Research Innovations Fund housed at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. He says while the funds are open for whoever has a viable idea, the biggest chunk of proposals there are still submitted by researchers at Makerere University.  

He clarified that even funds at Mak-RIF are not a monopoly of the University staff but rather they are designed in a way that the Principal Investigators exclusively come from Makerere to ease accountability for the funds. But any other researcher can be a partner or team member on the research and innovation studies. 

Topic: Mak-RIF/CHS Open Day Exhibition

Date: May 25, 2021 08:41 AM Nairobi

Meeting Recording: 

Access Passcode: ++3oi0y5

Mak-RIF/CHS Open Day on May 25, 2021 Photos 

Other photos are accessible in the link below 

Mak-RIF CHS Open Day in the Media

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