- The MoU is anticipated to assist Kisii University do better research on health-related matters.
- Event planned by three schools within the university.
- The focus is on multi-disciplinary research.
- Implementation to be effected soon, with webinars and training keeping participants updated.
Kisii University has continued to strengthen its academic muscles, with a knack for research and innovation aimed at solving communities’ problems.
In its latest strategic move, the institution has inked a partnership with Staffordshire University, a public research university in Staffordshire, England.
The partnership’s main aim is to pull together resources, knowledge, and community-sensitive approaches and expertise toward research between the two institutions of higher learning, especially on health-related projects.
Formalizing the collaborations
The partnership was signed on Friday, March 24, 2023, at Kisii University during a courtesy call to Kisii University’s Vice Chancellor, Prof. John Akama, by Prof. Sarahjane Jones, a Professor of Healthcare Safety and Performance at Staffordshire University; Dr. Yetunde Ataiyero, a lecturer in Adult Nursing and Postdoctoral Researcher, School of Health, Science and Wellbeing, Staffordshire University; and Ms. Alisen Dube, a Research Fellow in the School of Health, Science and Wellbeing at Staffordshire University.
Typically, this is a team of health experts from Staffordshire University working on patient safety and other health-related research projects.
Prof. Jones led the three-visitor delegation from the UK.
The signing of the MoU was meant to formalize the ongoing collaborations and relationship between the two institutions.
The three visitors who represented Staffordshire University hailed the move as a courageous approach toward research.
The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Akama, also acknowledged that the collaborative move would go a long way toward creating an enabling environment for better and more-focused research approaches aimed at transforming communities.
Organizing the event
After the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), the UK-based researchers also had a brainstorming conference with some of the university staff Deans, Department Chairs and representatives and lecturers, all drawn from the School of Health Sciences, School of Information Sciences and Technology, and the School of Arts and Social Sciences.
The event was organized by Dr. Peter Gutwa, Dean School of Arts and Social Sciences, Dr. Samuel Mongare, Dean, School of Health Sciences and an expert in parasitology, and Ms. Teresa Abuya, Chair, Computing Sciences Department in the School of Information Sciences and Technology.
She is also a researcher with interests in Bioinformatics, Machine Learning and Big Data Analytics.
The three schools, which were also the organizers of the event, are the backbone beneficiaries and implementors of the MoU.
The event pursued available pathways to interdisciplinary research, with a razor-sharp focus on results that impact society.
According to Dr. Gutwa, the journey started seven months ago, ignited by a visit by some of the Kisii University researchers to Staffordshire University last year, culminating with the signing of the MoU.
He thanked the visitors for accepting to join hands with Kisii University, adding that the idea is not confined to research but also extends to training, capacity-building, mentoring, workshops, developmental studies, and writing projects, among other academic-based engagements.
“Members of the three schools involved here stand to benefit from more information on the implementation part of research,” Dr. Gutwa noted.
From individualistic to collaborative research
Acknowledging the need to embrace multi-disciplinary and collaborative research approaches, he made it clear that “We can only find visibility through collaborative research.”
He also reiterated the need for quality if the research is to impact communities and transform societies in Kenya and beyond.
“We need everyone on board to move forward,” he urged.
Dr. Mongare identified the main idea as moving away from self-centered research, reminding the participants that collaborating on multi-disciplinary research would have a deeper impact on society.
“When we take the research to communities, the livelihoods of the community members is likely to improve,” he observed.
According to Prof. Jones, the University focuses on impactful research for communities, which involves education-based research, data analysis, and other kinds of research, all aimed at achieving its mission.
Prof. Jones took the participants through some of the research projects she and other partners at Staffordshire University have undertaken.
The better part of research in the UK is funded through the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), a non-departmental public body of the UK’s government, which directs research and innovation funding, financed through the science budget of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Applying for opportunities under this body allows individual researchers and research teams to receive funding for their community-transforming research projects.
NuRS is a flagship research project under UKRI, started in 2019, aimed at Understanding Nurse Retention and Safety, led by Prof. Jones.
It involved six trusts, three secondary care personnel and three mental health experts, taking three years and costing €260,000.
According to Dr. Ataiyero, the researchers use already-collected data from different healthcare teams, researching on the aspect of retaining nurses in the UK’s health facilities and the probability of substituting outgoing nurses with unemployed ones to keep the sector in balance.
The British Academy is the UK’s national academy for the humanities and social sciences, investing in research and projects across the UK and beyond, among other purposes, according to their website.
The institution has myriad opportunities for researchers and academics, funding international writing workshops, fellowships, and other training opportunities.
According to Ms. Dube, the UK-based researchers are also working on a project on Gender Equality, funded by the British Academy.
It is aimed at ensuring gender balance in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 3— Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
The collaborative research involves Kisii University, Kenyatta University and Staffordshire University, picking five researchers from each institution.
Kisii University has also been part of other research projects with Staffordshire University and other Kenyan-based institutions such as Karatina University, focused on infusing practical approaches within communities and impacting policies.
One of them is a recent research on managing diabetes.
Applying for these opportunities under the British Academy and the UKRI requires, among other things, the researcher or institution to understand their capacity to deliver quality results and earn an impeccable reputation, parading themselves for future funding and support.
Ongoing research works
The participants, who are researchers in different fields, also fielded their research works which they are conducting as individuals and also as teams to contribute to the needed solutions in Kenya and the world over.
Ann Chepkurui, a lecturer in the Department of Sociology, has been researching on women and their roles as nurses for their families and communities.
“Most of the health problems affecting women are triggered by socio-economic challenges at home,” she said.
Caring for and empowering women through training is key to reducing their health challenges and equipping them to nurse their families.
Speech pathology and health
Health-based research also involves the language aspect of it, and speech-language pathology is essential for doctors and health practitioners to grasp to better and easily attend to patients with speech challenges.
In the words of Dr. George Aberi, “In Kenya, speech disorders are a non-issue and research is on speech pathology is required to chase the possibility of recovering lost speech in patients through correctional approaches.”
He is the Chair of the Languages, Linguistics and Literature Department.
He underscored the need for documentation, through digital technology, of the experiences of speech-disorder patients, giving them a chance to be heard and also collecting data for reference in research.
The contribution of geographers is equally important in dealing with health-related issues.
“How do we set space even in hospitals?” posed Dr. Nyantika, a geographer, refreshing the participants with the Covid-19 lessons bagged concerning the spread of diseases and the place of space as a control measure against a quickened spread.
IT in health research
Ms. Abuya emphasized on IT as an enabler in providing solutions to disease prediction, diagnosis and management.
She underscored the role of Machine Learning (ML) in providing exciting opportunities in healthcare to improve the accuracy of diagnosis, personalized healthcare, management of clinical data, and decision-making to reduce risk in the medical field.
This approach to health-related research runs in tandem with the current migration into the digital world in diagnosing, treating and managing diseases and health-based information.
Research on menstrual health
According to Linet Mangare, a lecturer in the School of Health Sciences, achieving affordable and reliable menstrual health has remained an elephant in the quarters of the health sector and the community at large.
Research-backed evidence and a way forward are required to address menstrual health and why women should embrace safer methods other than relying on drugs to manage menstrual pain, among other aspects.
She also said that financial assistance is required to facilitate grassroots women and girls with sanitary pads and financial support for researchers.
Ms. Mangare also highlighted that Kisii University would benefit from a Simulation Lab. It would allow the students immersive learning experiences without the fear of harming humans during their practicals.
Kisii University has set itself apart as a research hub, winning grants, providing solutions and transforming society through education innovation and research.
In February 2023, the University partnered with Minnesota University in a bid to strengthen its research and innovation muscles.
With many other research projects going on within the university, this partnership will go a long way in offering deep and applicable insights into the best practice and approaches toward the projects.
Some of the other members present were: Dr. Ruth Chweya and Mr. Ben Mariga, lecturers in the department of Computing Sciences and Technology; Dr. Raymond Oigara, and Dr. Eric Omwenga from the School of Health Sciences, among many others.
In their input toward achieving collaborative research, the members agreed to hold regular webinars with the Staffordshire University researchers and delve into different research areas and possible fields of collaboration, training, capacity building, and mentorship.
These online meet-ups will bring to the table the expertise of different researchers from Kenya, the UK, and elsewhere, making them rich with the correct approaches toward diverse research projects.
“Let us take it up from here, and not just finish this event and forget about it,” Dr. Gutwa urged.
The visitors are also set to play a key role in bridging the space gap between the two universities by engaging researchers they’ve been in contact with over time and connecting them to those at Kisii University.
YOU CAN ALSO READ: Kisii University eyes excellence in health education and training
In the same vein, to benefit from the event’s proceedings, Prof. Jones urged everyone to “Put it on your diary, hold one another into account and continue with the conversation. We look forward to working with you.”