Research Capacity Gap Analysis
A key early activity that LASER PULSE will engage in is a capacity assessment for research conducted by low- and middle-income country (LMIC) universities that comprise the LASER PULSE HEI Network. This effort will be implemented by Makerere University, and will initially focus on university partners and affiliated institutions in sub-Saharan Africa that are members of the Makerere-led Resilient Africa Network (RAN).
The results of this study will be used to identify, prioritize, and describe key capacity gaps that need to be addressed in order to increase development research outputs and impacts from LMIC universities. The findings will also inform the design of institutional capacity-strengthening activities for researchers, university officials at the individual HEIs, and institutional network secretariats, so that the activities are targeted to areas of highest need.
The survey is designed to answer questions such as:
- What systems and infrastructure exist to encourage and support research as opposed to teaching?
- What incentives or barriers exist to commercializing research?
- Characterize the research relationship between the government and the HEI? Private sector and HEI. Are HEIs seen as legitimate sources of evidence upon which to base government policies? Of innovation for private sector?
- What are incentives for junior faculty? When and how does tenure occur?
- At what point in academic careers are faculty allowed to supervise graduate students as research assistants? Do research assistantships exist?
- Do faculty participate in international development project research? In what ways? How do they make these contacts?
- Are any special provisions made to incentivize female researchers? Are there any conditions that discourage female faculty from the research enterprise?
Rationale for the Gap Analysis
Research ecosystems in LMIC universities like those in Africa face many challenges. These challenges lead to a relatively lower level of research output from LMIC universities compared to developed country universities. Not only is there inadequate data and tools to inform development decisions among development practitioners and funders in LMICs, but involvement of LMIC universities in generating this data is low compared to the level of need for such evidence.
Notwithstanding these shortfalls, LMIC universities are strategically placed to address the information and data needs to inform development in their countries and localities given that they have: (1) large pools of experienced scholars in proximity to the target communities, (2) a better understanding of the local context and related development issues, and (3) strong linkages with government entities. These universities therefore possess great potential for supporting USAID in solving pressing development challenges through research. In order to increase development research outputs from LMIC universities, there is need to build research capacity for these universities. This requires identification of key capacity strengths and gaps in these ecosystems — a key activity of LASER PULSE — to facilitate the design of specific mechanisms to fill some of these gaps.