20 June 2016
Challenges, strategies, and tools for research scientists in Africa
Posted by Shane Hanlon
This is a guest post by graduate student Ngozi Oguguah as part of our ongoing series of posts where we ask students to share their experiences in science communication.
When I started my PhD research, I encountered three main challenges: 1) funding, 2) access to laboratories, and 3) access to publications. After much work, I learned that I could overcome these challenges through building networks, many of which involved online communication with other researchers.
I searched for funded PhD programmes in Nigeria but I could not find any. So, I had to opt to fund myself! As you all likely know, it is a very expensive venture! Since my research work was on Lagos lagoon, I first met with colleagues in similar research projects. From there I keyed into the field surveys done by the institute, we combined my resources with colleagues, and we carried out our field work. I spent a lot of money analyzing my survey samples in different laboratories but, luckily for me, my institute acquired an atomic absorption spectroscopy (AAS) and I was able to use the institute’s laboratory to analyze my samples. Access to publications was also a great challenge. I got around this by using the network I have built over the years through my yahoo group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/scienceresearchinthetropics), through my international training programs and conferences, through e-lists that I belong to, and most especially through the fellowships I belong to, most notably the US Alumni Exchange and African Women in Agricultural Research and Development. Through these networks, I was able to get trained in different aspects of research, writing, publication, and leadership, and had access to online publications.
As a saying in Nigeria goes, “Slowly, slowly the hot soup was licked”! Through the Yahoo group that I started over 6 years ago, we have been able to share hundreds of funded scholarships, trainings, calls for paper, grants, and other opportunities. I am an internet ‘rat,’ always online looking for funded opportunities to share! It gladdens my heart when I get feedback that someone keyed into the opportunity that was posted in the group. It means that the stumbling block (lack of access to opportunities) I encountered when I started my PhD is now being overcome. I am a proponent of collaboration and networking as a way of going forward in research in Africa as “a tree cannot make a forest” and ”two heads are better than one.” Our people have a saying: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
There is also a proverb that should be in the forefront for everybody who wants to be a success: “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress and working together is success!”
-Ngozi Oguguah is a PhD researcher with the Nigerian Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research (NIOMR) in Lagos, South-West Nigeria.