A Web-enabled Community of Practice for Grantsmanship and Research management in OAU
- Background: Institutional gaps in grantsmanship culture
- Grant opportunities – local and global
- Introduction to a Community of Practice [CoP] for grantsmanship & research management
- Design and operationalization of a CoP for grantsmanship
- Web-enablement of a CoP for grantsmanship
- Deliverables from a CoP for grantsmanship
- Risks and risk mitigation
- Sustainability mechanisms for a CoP for grantsmanship
- Some Links, Resources and References
Institutional gaps in grantsmanship culture and research management in higher education institutions (HEIs) in sub-Saharan Africa are well known. In many of these of HEIs, there is no entrenched culture of grantsmanship to drive a research and innovation (R&I) agenda for institutional development. Consequently, many HEIs are not competitive in the global R&D landscape, with detrimental effects on institutional visibility and ranking.
However, vast opportunities for grantsmanship exist within each country and globally. Thousands of agencies, foundations and institutions support R&D through competitive grants for the pursuit of scholarship within and across disciplines. In Nigeria, the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund, www.tetfund.gov.ng) provides multiple grants for researchers across HEIs. Globally, some well recognized granting agencies and institutions include NIH, NSF, EU, Carnegie Corporation, Gates Foundation, IDRC, DFID, JICA, IFS, etc. A new paradigm is needed to leverage on these opportunities to build a culture of grantsmanship to drive the R&D agenda for institutional development.
Our overarching goal is to initiate and establish a community of practice (CoP) as a new paradigm to build and nurture a culture grantsmanship in OAU. Specific objectives include developing a functional web-enabled CoP for sharing knowledge, resources, processes, data and best practices on grantsmanship and research management in OAU, and inspiring grantsmanship and research management in the digital and ICT age through access to online resources, including tools and networks to facilitate the practice of grantsmanship among all categories of researchers and administrators in OAU.
Web contents present and describe a model for the implementation of a CoP for grantsmanship and research management in OAU. Details include: (a) Governance structure and membership drive for a CoP for grantsmanship and research management; (b) Design and operationalization of a web-site for a CoP for grantsmanship; (c) Deliverables; (e) Risks and risk mitigation, (f) Sustainability mechanisms for a CoP for grantsmanship. It is hoped that this web-enabled CoP for grantsmanship and research management will be a game-changer in the process of embedding grantsmanship for pristine scholarship in OAU, and in HEIs in Africa.
Funding for the development of this web-enabled CoP for grantsmanship and research management was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, through the International Research Exchange Board (IREX.org), under the University Administration Support Program 2021 Small Grant Scheme. This is acknowledged with gratitude.
3. Background: Institutional gaps in grantsmanship culture
Thousands of grant opportunities are available in all fields and specializations, and to all categories of researchers and administrators in higher education institutions [HEIs] in Africa. These granting opportunities are sparsely harnessed to drive cutting edge R&D in HEIs in Nigeria and in sub-Saharan Africa. Low global and continental rankings of many HEIs in Africa (e.g. global and continental THE and QS rankings of HEIs) provide evidence of the worrisome state of R&D, research outputs and scholarship in many of these institutions.
In many HEIs, there is no entrenched culture of grantsmanship to drive a research and innovation (R&I) agenda for institutional development. In addition, phases of research project life cycles are poorly coordinated and implemented, further endangering institutional grantsmanship track record and image. Where a grantsmanship culture is poor, researchers [and institutions] are not competitive in the global R&D landscape, further jeopardizing institutional visibility. Detrimental effects of the scenarios above include lowered institutional ranking and status. Other (negative) implications include loss of billions of dollars of funding for R&I for institutional development.
4. Grant Opportunities – Local and Global
Vast opportunities (including local and global sources) for grants and academic fellowships exist. Some of the local sources (within Nigeria) include (a) Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund.gov.ng), (b) Raw Materials Research and Development Council, Ministry of Science and Technology, (c) Embassies and High Commissions in Nigeria, (d) Some Foundations (e.g McArthur Foundation) with offices in Nigeria, etc. Global opportunities for grants and fellowships include EU, NSF (USA), NIH (USA), NIFA/USDA (USA), IDRC (Canada), DFID (UK), JICA (Japan), IFS (Sweden), etc. Some databases including grants.gov, grantcraft, Terraviva, PAEPARD, etc., are robust sources of granting opportunities for scholars and institutions.
The need to evolve new systems and mechanisms for exploring grantsmanship for HEIs in Africa is urgent and paramount. A new paradigm is needed to drive a robust agenda for grantsmanship and research management. This would facilitate building institutional capacity for grantsmanship and research management for all stakeholders including researchers and research administrators in OAU.
5. Introduction to a Community of Practice [CoP] for Grantsmanship and Research Management
5.1. Summary Questions
- What is a CoP for grantsmanship and research management?
- What are the merits of a CoP for grantsmanship?
- What are the strategic objectives of a CoP for grantsmanship?
- When is a CoP for grantsmanship and research management web-enabled?
- How is a web-enabled CoP for grantsmanship operationalized?
- What are the deliverables of a CoP for grantsmanship?
- What are the risk factors that could affect the operationalization of a CoP for grantsmanship, and what are the risk mitigation actions?
- What are the sustainability indicators for a CoP for grantsmanship?
5.2. About a CoP for Grantsmanship
A CoP is a voluntary group of individuals (or professionals) who share a passion for an activity, and learn how to improve on the performance and delivery of such an activity over time, by sharing knowledge and resources through regular interactions (Wenger, 2011). Community members may use online collaboration tools to share best practices, exchange real-time information and complete self-directed learning (Jones, 2013, How to Start, Grow and Manage a Learning Community of Practice. © D W Jones).
A CoP is characterized by (a) a domain of interest or focus (e.g. grantsmanship), (b) a community of practitioners (e.g. academics, researchers, research administrators as well as bursary and registry staff), (c) a systematic process of practice of the activity (e.g. grantsmanship), through knowledge exchange to actualize the agenda of the CoP, (d) a Code of Conduct among CoP participants, which lays out principles, standards, moral and ethical expectations that members adhere to, during all engagements in the CoP for grantsmanship.
Communities of practice have been linked to the grantsmanship agenda of higher education institutions (Poole, 2006). A CoP model promotes grantsmanship by creating a robust platform for discourse, engagements, collaborations, synergies and networks among researchers and research administrators within and across institutions. Currently, there is no web-enabled CoP for grantsmanship and research management in any University in Nigeria.
Figure 1. Pillars of a CoP for Grantsmanship and research management (Adapted from Wenger, 2011)
5.3 Merits of a CoP for Grantsmanship
- Experiential learning, synergy and best practices in grantsmanship and research management
- Mapping knowledge and identifying knowledge gaps in grantsmanship, research life cycles and research management
- Repertoire of knowledge of diverse funding opportunities, including conventional granting schemes and emerging schemes (e.g. crowdfunding)
- Members share tools, resources, methodologies, etc., on grantsmanship and research management
- Improvement of the knowledge, competence and skills set of each participant in the CoP
- Development of knowledge within the domain of grantsmanship
- Inspiring competences and competitiveness among Early Career Researchers (ECRs) in harnessing grantsmanship for career development
- Access to on-line tools and resources to drive grantsmanship and research management;
- Access to the immense funding needed for Research and Innovation projects
5.4 Objectives of a CoP for Grantsmanship
- Develop a web-enabled CoP for sharing knowledge, processes, data, tools and best practices on grantsmanship and research management in OAU
- Design a governance model for a web-enabled CoP to inspire grantsmanship and research management in OAU
- Identify and address significant knowledge gaps in grantsmanship, project life cycle and research management under a web-enabled CoP;
- Inspire grantsmanship and research management in the digital and ICT age through access to online resources, tools and networks among ECRs and administrators in OAU;
- Explore intra- and inter-institutional CoP model to nurture grantsmanship and research management for institutional development.
- A web enabled CoP for grantsmanship as a platform for capacity building for all categories of grants, including mega- and high impact institutional grants.
5.5 Design & Operationalization of a Web-enabled CoP for Grantsmanship
a. Critical Steps in Starting a CoP (Jones, 2013, http://www.mimeo.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Ebook-How-to-start-grown-and-manage-a-learning-community-of-practice.pdf)
- Sponsorship (Seed funding from Carnegie Corporation of New York through the University Administration Support Program (UASP) Small Grant 2021 Program coordinated by IREX.org.
- Core team
- Vision, Mission, Governance Structure and Membership drive
- Infrastructure for a web-enabled CoP (@oaucop.com/home)
- Membership drive and a database of members @ oaucop.com/home
- Set targets and track milestones
- Monitoring and evaluation
- Assess and mitigate risks
b. Governance Structure, Infrastructure and Operationalization of a CoP for Grantsmanship and Research Management
i. Vision, Mission, Governance Structure and Membership drive
“A culture of grantsmanship driving pristine scholarship in OAU”
- That OAU researchers and research administrators build capacity for securing and managing grants through a web-enabled CoP.
- That OAU is a key institution of choice by all granting agencies, on account of the strict adherence to research ethics, integrity and compliance policies.
- That all academic staff, including early career researchers and research administrators in OAU can leverage on the benefits of grantsmanship for career and institutional development.
- That all academic staff and research administrators in OAU have the knowledge, skills and expertise to harness grantsmanship for career development.
- That all programmes across all disciplines, Departments, Faculties Centres and Institutes in OAU are fully supported and funded through grants.
- That OAU imbibes institutional commitment to sound policies on research integrity, ethics, compliance and responsible conduct of research.
- Enroll (enlist) members voluntarily, via registration at the CoP Dashboard.
Job title / status
Previous records of grants
ORCID/ResearchGate/Google scholar links
Build initial membership through online registration at the Dashboard of the CoP website
- Build a critical mass of CoP for Grantsmanship participants
- Manage and update membership
CoP Governance Structure and Stakeholders Structure
- Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)
- Executive Director, Central Office of Research
- All Directors, Central Office of Research
- Provosts (College of Health Sciences, Postgraduate College)
- Chairman Committee of Deans
- OAU IREX UASP Fellows
- Steering Committee members
- Top grantees and mega-grantees in OAU
- Committee of Deans
Grantsmanship Teams and Clusters
- All Centres and Institutes
- All Faculties
- All Departments
- Inter-disciplinary & cross-disciplinary clusters
- Postgraduate College (All PhD Candidates)
- All Institutions with whom OAU has an MOU
- TETFund (www.tetfund.gov.ng)
- NUC (National Universities Commission)
- AAU (Association of African Universities)
- WARIMA (West African Research and Innovation Management Association)
- Carnegie Corporation of New York
Grantsmanship Teams” for specific calls (e.g. UKRI, START.org, EU, Gates Foundation, World Bank etc.):
- Grantsmanship networks (with sister Universities in Nigeria, Africa and global)
ii. Establishment of a CoP for Grantsmanship
- Institutional support, buy-in and ownership. From inception, the project secured the buy-in and support of the OAU authorities. Reference documents for the project were endorsed by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) in 2021.
- Situation, gap and SWOT analyses of the status of grantsmanship and research management in OAU. Where are we? Where do we want to be in five, or ten years’ time, with respect to grantsmanship and research management in OAU?
- Awareness and Needs Assessment
- A functional (web-site) for CoP for grantsmanship and research management in OAU (@ oaucop.com/home)
- CoP for grantsmanship units established in all institutes, research centres, colleges, faculties and departments in OAU.
- A special CoP for grantsmanship unit for PhD candidates established at the OAU Postgraduate College,
iii. Operationalization of a web-enabled CoP for grantsmanship and research management in OAU
i. Grantsmanship Think-Tank Committee
1. 10-year strategic agenda for grantsmanship in OAU
2. Evolve a winning strategy for different categories of grants
3. Set targets for grants and mega-grants across disciplines
4. Capacity Building Agenda for early, mid and senior career researchers and research administrators.
ii. Capacity building (via- Jitsi Video Conference Tool within the CoP Site)
1. Grantsmanship and research management culture
2. Mega grants including grants and awards for Centres of Excellence, Knowledge Parks, Research Institutes and Centres
3. High impact institutional grants (e.g. McArthur, Carnegie, Gates’, EU, etc.)
iii. Thematic Areas for Capacity Building for Grantsmanship via CoP
- Grantsmanship culture
- Research Project Life Cycles
- Criteria for the assessment of grant proposals by major granting agencies
- Research culture
- Grantsmanship and mentorship for Early Career Researchers and research administrators
- Research ethics, integrity and compliance
- Responsible conduct of research
- Project cycle management
- Researcher Development Framework
- Research commercialization
iv. General Activities
- Content curation [Grantsmanship themes]
- E-Resources to promote continual learning on grantsmanship and research management
- Activities and engagements within the Dashboard of the CoP for Grantsmanship web-site
- Q&A session on grantsmanship and research management, project life cycle management, etc.
- Webinars, conferences and workshops on grantsmanship
- Real-time notifications on Calls for Proposals via News Feeds
- Write shops (Breakout Sessions within the Jitsi on the Dashboard)
- Shut up and write sessions
- Lunch-and-learn session
b. Web-enablement of CoP
- CoP Dashboard for the operationalization of the CoP for Grantsmanship
- CoP activities through the Dashboard
- Members’ database
- Proposal upload, review/vetting and feedback
- Q&A sessions on grant opportunities, proposal development, pre- and post-awards, sub-contracting, project clos-out, etc.
- Access to grant databases (grants.gov, grantcraft, PAEPARD, terraviva, etc.)
- Find funding/access to grants and fellowships opportunities through News feeds
- Q&A on grants and grantsmanship, etc.
- Guidance on the implementation of Research Project life cycle
- Opportunity scanning for grants
- Post-award processes and procedures
- Project Close-out
- Project cycle management
- Global networks and collaborations on grantsmanship
- OAU institutional fact sheets, data, metrics and templates
- OAU institutional Data and Metrics on grants
- Web-sites of granting agencies and foundations [via News feeds]
- Mentorship: Shut-up and Write Philosophy
- Navigating proposal submission gateways and portals [e.g. UKRI, EU, Wellcome Trust, TETFund, etc.]
c. Visibility and Outreach (News and Events)
- E-Newsletters on grantsmanship and research management
- Blogs on grants, research breakthroughs and research impact and commercialization
- Showcasing the Track record of OAU grantees
- Celebrate winners and early wins
- Create and link social media accounts (e.g. LinkedIn to activities of the CoP for grantsmanship)
- A web-enabled CoP for grantsmanship and research management is established and operational in OAU
- Capacity building for grantsmanship and research management is enhanced through a web-enabled CoP
- Mirroring the sites of major granting agencies, with Calls for Proposals instantly captured and disseminated
- Expanded networks of practitioners of grantsmanship in OAU facilitated by a web-enabled CoP
- Intra- and inter-disciplinary collaborations, linkages and partnerships for grantsmanship are enhanced through a CoP
- Research administrators and ECRs are mentored and inspired with knowledge, skills and competence in grantsmanship, research management and administration.
- Enhanced institutional capacity and reputation of OAU researchers, scholars and administrators in securing and managing grants and research project life cycles facilitated by a CoP.
- A functional web-enabled CoP for grantsmanship becomes a blueprint for other Universities in Nigeria and in Africa.
- A “One-Stop” site with access to tools and resources on grantsmanship and research management.
- Embedding a culture of grantsmanship and research management in OAU through a web-enabled CoP.
- Early, mid and senior career researchers and administrators in OAU are inspired with knowledge, skills and competence for high level competitiveness in grantsmanship and research management.
- Enhanced institutional reputation and capacity for securing and managing all categories of grants.
e. Risks and Risk Mitigation
|Description of Risk||Action|
|1. Initial apathy and/slow response by research and administrative staff towards the CoP initiative to drive grantsmanship at OAU, leading to low participation and consequently, slow pace of kick-off of the reform||(a) Sensitize and build high level institutional consciousness about the CoP strategy to drive grantsmanship in OAU
(b) Build incentives into the attendance and full participation of ECR in all the meetings of the CoP
(c) Introduce “lunch and learn” (in conformity with COVID-19 protocols)
(d) Appeals to Heads of Departments and units to adopt flexible schedules for ECRs and research administrators to ensure full participation in the CoP programmes.
(e) Celebrate early wins (e.g. new IFS, TWAS, CODESRIA grantees, etc.), grantees, to inspire ECRs
|2. Workload of ECRs and administrators impinging on the time schedules and participation in CoP activities, leading to staggered participation in the reform, thereby hampering outputs and deliverables||(a) Comprehensive and advanced programme planning that accommodates the schedules of ECR and administrators for the entire Semester & Session
(b) Build-in the option of weekend participation, with incentives
(c) Build incentives into full participation in the reform
(d) Celebrate successful outcomes of grant applications, to inspire CoP participants
|3. Environmental factors (e.g. COVID-19 restrictions) hampering the conduct of physical meetings, leading to low initial commitment and participation||(a) Explore or switch to virtual modes of conducting meetings for the CoP
(b) Incentivize ECR with free credits (data) for internet access, based on full participation
(c) Explore a hybrid model that combines physical (following COVID-19 protocols) and virtual meetings when physical meetings are not feasible
|4. Low initial success rates in grant application outcomes leading to low morale and impressions about grantsmanship, thereby affecting future participation by stakeholders||(a) Emphasize a consciousness of resilience and tenacity in grantsmanship
(b) Build-in morale boosters through some metrics on grants success rates
(c) Connect actors with mentors who are successful grants’ people to guide and inspire ECRs and administrators
|5. Initial slow response by OAU hierarchy towards the CoP initiative to drive grantsmanship, leading to a slow pace of take-off of the reform, and endangering overall success||
(a) Institutional buy-in (ab initio) must be ensured and guaranteed
(b) Focus on the gains at multiple scales (individual researchers, research teams, Department, Faculty and the University)
|6. Constraints in comprehending and harmonizing web contents with the operationalization of a CoP by ECRs and administrators, leading to slow initial take-off and enthusiasm for participation||(a) Intensive initial awareness programmes to link web contents on grants and project life cycles with CoP to build institutional capacity for grantsmanship
(b) All CoP programmes for capacity building for grantsmanship is inspired by web-contents and trend for grants
(c) Provide incentives to participants who are motivated by web contents on any aspect of the project life cycle
f. Sustainability of the CoP for Grantsmanship
- Institutional buy-in [Institutional commitment to project ownership by HEIs]
- Maintain global networks and linkages [e.g. IREX.org, START.org, Volkswagen Foundation, etc.]
- Project Alumni networks of Research Administrators and ECR beneficiaries – continuation of project activities by a highly inspired generation of beneficiaries and practitioners of grantsmanship and research management
- Sustained access to competitive grants (UASP/IREX, etc.) to expand on the current efforts
- Expanded CoP for grantsmanship networks across HEIs in Nigeria, and in Africa
g. Reflections and Conclusions
Grantsmanship remains a veritable source of “all round” funding for R&D and scholarship. This vast resource is sparsely tapped or harnessed for institutional development and impact. In the light of the ICT age, a “web-enabled CoP for grantsmanship and research management in OAU” was initiated and established. Details including vision, mission, governance structure, operationalization, risks and risk mitigation, sustainability are presented. It is hoped that the new paradigm will be a game-changer for embedding a culture of grantsmanship and research management in OAU, and in HEIs in Nigeria and in Africa.
h. Some References, Links and Resources
- Grants 101 @ www.grants.gov
- Grantcraft @ www.grantcraft.org
- Licklider M (2012). Grant Seeking in Higher Education. Strategies and Tools for College Faculty. The University of Missouri Grant Writer Network. Jossey-Bass Publishers. 312 pp
- Jones, D. W. (2013). How to Start, Grow and Manage a Learning Community of Practice. © D. W. Jones Blob: http://www.mimeo.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Ebook-How-to-start-grown-and-manage-a-learning-community-of-practice.pdf
- Researcher Development Framework: https://www.vitae.ac.uk/researchers-professional-development/about-the-vitae-researcher-development-framework/rdf-images
- PAEPARD @ http://paepard.blogspot.com/
- Terraviva @ www.terraviva.org
- Downs P., 2020. Grant Writing for Impact Workbook- A Practical Resource for Developing School Grants. ISBN 979-8-6119-1396-3.
- Fox A.S. &- Karsh E. (2019). The Only Grant-writing Book You will Ever Need (5th Ed.). ISBN 978-1-5416-1785-0, index 428. Hachette Book Group, New York.
- Golden S.L. (1997). Successful Grantsmanship- A Guide to Raising Money (1st Edition). ISBN 0-7879-0306-X. JOSSEY-BASS. Wiley.