Looking towards the implementation of the second phase of Science Granting Councils Initiative (SGCI 2), Rwanda should remember the lessons learned from this experience, a senior expert at Rwanda’s National Council of Science and Technology (NCST) told Rwanda Dispatch in an interview
Felly Kalisa, Policy Analyst in science, technology and innovation (STI) at NCST said the lessons are about how national science granting councils should develop ownership and strengthen capacity-building and the development of capabilities.
Participating in SGCI helped Rwanda’s National Council of Science and Technology (NCST)’s internal capacity through various trainings and workshops.
In addition, NCST staff received training in research management, STI, Monitoring and Evaluation and STI policy development, according to experts.
Referring to partnership, Kalisa added that Rwanda’s science granting council received support to finalize a call for research proposal and it was able to collaborate with the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD, to train enumerators on STI indicators during the Research and development (R&D) survey conducted by NCST.
Building research capacity
Among other achievements toward supporting research and evidence-based policies, NCST staff participated in various conferences and workshops where by participants learned a lot on STI and research management in particular.
Science granting councils (SGCs) perform a number of crucial functions that contribute to the effective and efficient functioning of such systems including disbursing funds for research and development (R&D); building research capacity through appropriate scholarships and bursaries; setting and monitoring research agendas and priorities.
Its core mission also include advising on science, technology and innovation (STI) policies; managing bilateral and multilateral science and technology (S&T) agreements; and assessing the communication, uptake and impact of publicly funded research.
Apart from capacity building, boosting collaboration between national science granting councils has been described as an important step by engaging national partners, bilateral or multilateral structures and public or private research structures in the negotiation, development and implementation of projects or research programmes, Kalisa said.
Through this collaboration, the University of Rwanda’s College of Arts and Social Sciences and the University College London (UCL) Department of Science, Technology Engineering and Public Policy (UCL STEaPP) have partnered in an assessment of the role of the Science Granting Councils Initiative (SGCI) in strengthening science, research and innovation systems in nine African countries, including Rwanda.
The 10-month assessment which was conducted in September last year, called the SGCI Training Effectiveness Case Studies (STECS) Project, explored the extent to which training, knowledge products and other forms of support from the SGCI have strengthened among others research management, public-private partnerships, gender and inclusivity issues and science ecosystems broadly within the 9 countries which participated in the study.
The project also explored adjustments that would be necessary for the funding agency (SGCI) and beneficiaries in 9 countries to make training and capacity strengthening activities more effective.
While the major focus was to boost collaboration, a combination of trainings, peer-to-peer and learning visits has enabled the Councils from Kenya (NRF), Mozambique (FNI) and Rwanda (NCST) to improve their grants management systems.
While grants are awarded to promising high-level research projects across sectors, Kalisa stresses the need for national science granting councils to take ownership developing interventions in strategic areas.
These activities include managing research; designing and monitoring research programs based on the use of robust STI indicators; supporting knowledge exchange with the private sector; and establishing partnerships between science granting councils and other science system actors.
One of the mandates of NCST is to mobilize funds to support research investment and outputs in the country. Currently NCST is collaborating with International Development Research Center (IDRC) and managed to raise funding amounting to 500,000 CAD to implement Sector Strategic Research Grant to support Research in modern agriculture and food security and sustainable and renewable energy.
“The ownership is important for the council to exercise control over how these interventions are implemented,” Kalisa said. (END)