An intensive three-day off-campus bootcamp aimed at equipping mid-career academics with a broad framework on how to write a successful research grant proposal tangibly for submission before the end of December 2023, was presented by UKZN’s College of Health Sciences (CHS) in partnership with the Developing Research Innovation, Localisation, and Leadership in South Africa (DRILL) programme.
Participants were welcomed by CHS Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head Professor Busi Ncama, who said initiatives such as the bootcamp were an indication the College was serious about supporting research excellence among its young and seasoned academics.
Ncama said it was important for the College to grow its own timber, thanking the facilitators, CHS Dean of Research Professor Anil Chuturgoon and DRILL co-Principal Investigator and current UKZN Biomedical Research Ethics Committee (BREC) chair Professor Doug Wassenaar for their vision and commitment to the College.
Held in the form of a workshop, participants interacted with several experts from the College’s various centres of research excellence who shared their insights and experience on the successes and pitfalls of grant-writing locally and internationally.
The facilitators said grant funding provided a critical means of support for academic research and training programmes. Despite the importance of this support in advancing both research and researchers’ careers, these skills are not emphasised as part of academic training.
Wassenaar gave a sterling introduction to grant writing, outlining the different types of local and international grants. He shared tips on how to access grants and locate funding, also guiding those present on how to understand and interpret grant announcements.
It was a vigorous three days but participants said they found each day and insights from each speaker highly beneficial. ‘The bootcamp taught us how to position our applications for success with both reviewers and their agencies,’ said one academic, while another said: ‘For me, it was learning how to optimise the key features of successful proposals and interpret reviewer critiques, especially for resubmission.’
Participants also learned how to write a persuasive grant application, and how to advise and mentor junior colleagues on how to enter the world of grants.
Chuturgoon said: ‘Grants, as third-stream income, will maintain and improve the research momentum and allow our early career researchers to be mentored by mid-career researchers.’ The CHS thanked the DRILL facilitators and project manager for the mentorship.
DRILL, a D43 National Institutes of Health training grant, was awarded to UKZN in 2015 to support a research leadership programme for early career academics and health professional staff members under the scientific areas of Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS), Mental Health, Health Professions’ Education, Health Research Ethics and Health Systems Research.
Words: Lunga Memela