A platform providing funding opportunities to researchers

Guest post from Deborah-Fay Ndlovu, a senior journalist for Research

Research Professional Africa is a subscriber-based
database with over 5,000 funding opportunities to enable sustained African
academic development.

, which is based in Cape Town, South Africa,
began in 2006 as a collaborative initiative between Research Ltd (UK), the
Southern African Research and Innovation Management Association (SARIMA), and
the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU).

The parties sought to address
the dearth of relevant funding opportunities for African researchers in natural
and social sciences who at that time relied on databases that were not customized to
their needs.

The realization came
after a workshop held in 2005 to assess the funding needs of African

Participants complained about
the absence of information for researchers “on where to get funding”.

The platform provides all types
of funding, from institutional grants, travel awards, postgraduate scholarships
and scientific fellowships, to the calls for large intercontinental, multi-partnered
and multi-year project applications in all disciplines.

The opportunities are
fine-tuned to meet researchers’ specific needs so they do not have to waste
time wading through loads of data. For example, physicists looking for funding
opportunities in their area can perform a customized search by institution,
sponsor and date relevant for their specific field.

This saves time for researchers
who have huge workloads and limited internet access.

The Research Africa team
includes customer support consultants, who provide training and assistance to
subscribers on the use of the platform in both English and French.

The platform currently has over
5,000 active users who are from institutions that include Makerere University,
a Foundation Member of BioMed Central.

The University of Botswana has
recently successfully applied for a European Union grant using Research Africa.

In addition, Research Africa
publishes an online weekly newsletter, which was created in response to the
poor coverage on science policy on the continent.

Research Africa offers
investigative science stories, analysis and opinion pieces from distinguished
academics and policymakers across the globe.

The news department endeavors
to highlight the correlation between funding, research, policy and the
beneficiaries of the research.

The news also focuses on the
work done by individual researchers.

This helps to raise awareness
of African researchers about what research their counterparts are working on
and provide possible opportunities for collaboration in a continent where
scientists hardly know each other.

It also offers a six-month
internship program, funded by the International Development Research Centre,
that will allow press officers to learn how to package press releases so they
can improve the coverage of research.

One of the projects in which
Research Africa is involved in is the 
RIMI4AC (short for “Improvement of research and innovation
management capacity in Africa and the Caribbean for the successful stimulation
and dissemination of research results.”)

The three-year project offers
training on research management (subsidy proposal writing, negotiation, project
administration, and knowledge transfer) to academia and institutes involved in
international research and development.

The RIMI4AC has also enabled
the platform to launch Research Professional Caribbean, which offers
science policy news and funding opportunities for researchers in the Caribbean from
January 2011.

The focus on international funding opportunities is Research Africa’s
contribution to the fight against the brain drain in Africa. It’s also part of
the company’s contribution to efforts to build Africa’s scientific capacity.

For more information contact Shaun Stuart:  sgs@research-africa.net


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