Pan African University launches research policy

The Pan African University (PAU) has published it first Research and Publication Policy, a document that, once approved by its governing council, will guide how the continental university will conduct and publish research – a critical component of its function as a postgraduate training and research network of African universities.

The 17-point draft document will be officially adopted by the institution’s governing council later this year. It is the product of a lengthy process that commenced in 2016 when the African Union summit of heads of state adopted a revised PAU statute, which, among other things, provided that the PAU develop its own research policy.

Following the provisions of the law, the university commissioned a consultant to develop the document in conjunction with the four PAU institutes. The draft was presented to and validated at a workshop held from 3-4 September and chaired by Kassa Belay, PAU deputy rector.

“This workshop aimed to, among other things, provide a platform for deliberations and to critically review and validate the draft policy, provide inputs and enrich it for the guide and management of research and publication within the university,” he said.

The draft was presented to the university senate the following day and is now being fine-tuned before being taken before the council for approval, according to Belay.

Relevance and impact

Once the policy is in place, important research areas will be prioritised on the basis of relevance and potential impact.

It will help to ensure that quality and relevant research is conducted in a responsible and efficient manner and, more importantly, ensure that research funds are efficiently managed, he said.

Belay said the document seeks to provide strategic direction and a conducive environment for the advancement of innovative research; it also highlights principles of good research practice, including academic freedom, accountability, integrity, transparency, openness, adherence to ethical standards, and safety issues, among others.

“Research is carried out to answer specific questions or issues, to solve problems, to widen understanding or to add to the body of knowledge. Publication is one of the dissemination tools to inform the research community and the wider readership about the output or evidence of research. A policy framework, a course or principle of action adopted or proposed, provides direction to these activities,” he said.

No new programmes

At its September meeting, the university’s senate also resolved that PAU will not add any new programmes to the ones currently being offered over the next five years.

The decision to limit the launch of new programmes was intended to help the university “consolidate and focus on enhancing the quality of its teaching, research and outreach activities”, the university said in a press statement.

The university currently offers studies in 57 disciplines, including 29 masters and 16 PhD programmes.

In addition the organisation has agreed that all branches of PAU should start operating according to a harmonised annual academic calendar for smooth implementation of learning programmes.

The university became functional in 2012, graduating three cohorts of masters students and one cohort of PhD students. It operates four thematic institutes in Kenya, Nigeria, Algeria and Cameroon. A fifth and final institute devoted to space sciences will be set up in South Africa.