Educating Johannesburg on the Benefits of Core Facilities in Research.

 

This post was adapted from a Florida State University Press Release.

Dr. Claudius Mundoma, from Florida State University, Institute of Molecular Biophysics, and an ABRF Member, was awarded a fellowship by the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program to travel to South Africa to work with University of Johannesburg and Profs. Charles Mbohwa and Willie Oldewage on “Sharing Research Equipment – Towards a Sustainable Model of Interdisciplinary Collaborative Research”.  This fellowship allows for Mundoma to work with researchers in Africa and educate them with his intimate knowledge on how core facilities in particular can benefit interdisciplinary research and collaboration.  Especially with limited resources and funding for research available.

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Dr. Mundoma teaching to students in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Our recognition that scientific research resources are not only the heart of discovery and productivity but also the catalyst to innovation underpins this effort. Equipment sharing is a common practice but there is need for an understanding of the benefits and barriers to greater equipment sharing as a response to reduced capital funding. To maintain economic competitiveness, it is critical to sustain gains in scientific investments made over the past decade through efficient use of available resources.  It is with this focus that Dr. Claudius Mundoma is collaborating with the University of Johannesburg to come up with a comprehensive strategy to managing the research assets at University of Johannesburg that will focus on efficiency as a very first step towards innovation.

The need is addressed in three ways:

(1) By equipment-sharing and better scientific resource management principles we strengthen Africa’s collaboration networks. By creating a searchable equipment portal and a sharing management system, the university can be able to stretch scarce research funds to serve a wider research community. The sharing portal brings visibility to research capabilities across the university and enhances efficiency by optimizing redundancies and increasing equipment access. It is also important to note that not all equipment is shareable.

P1010735(1) 2) Centralization has advantages of economies of scale, which allows the university to better manage the full life cycle cost of its equipment, i.e., from acquisition to retirement or re-purposing.

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Learning the ‘ropes’ on equipment.

(3) Providing management training options for the equipment managers through adoption of best practices and joining professional organizations. Equipment managers should be able to cross-train on various instruments and increase their value to the university community thus extending training to graduate students and faculty in their departments.

The University of Johannesburg project is one of 57 projects that will pair African Diaspora scholars with higher education institutions in Africa to collaborate on curriculum co-development, research, graduate teaching, training and mentoring activities.  Dr. Claudius Mundoma is one of 59 African Diaspora scholars who have been awarded fellowships to travel to Africa beginning in May 2016 to conduct a wide range of projects across disciplines, from agroforestry to e-learning modules for nursing, and from ethnomusicology to military mental health. The program has now selected and approved a total of 169 Fellows since its inception in 2013.

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Enjoying an afternoon high tea in the break room.

The Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship program facilitates engagement between scholars born in Africa who are now based in the United States or Canada and scholars in Africa on mutually beneficial academic activities.  The Advisory Council selected forty-one African universities to host the Fellows, based on collaborative project proposals submitted by faculty members and administrators at the African universities, to meet specific needs at their universities. This innovative program is managed by the Institute of International Education (IIE) in collaboration with United State International University-Africa (USIU-Africa) in Nairobi, through Dr. Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, who chairs the Advisory Council, and is funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

 

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