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Bridging learning gaps, building communities: a look back at AuthorAID’s 2023 impact on early career researchers – INASP Blog

Bridging learning gaps, building communities: a look back at AuthorAID’s 2023 impact on early career researchers

Navigating a research career is a difficult journey, and for early career researchers (ECRs) in the Global South, the path is obstructed with unique obstacles. Lack of funds, low-resource labs and research facilities, unreliable connectivity, and lack of access to professional learning are just some of the challenges that Global South ECRs face. This often leads to their voices not being heard as much as those from the North.  

Pressing issues like climate change and food insecurity affect all countries across the globe, but some bear the burden more than others. Problems like public health crises and conflicts are not confined to national boundaries; they affect us all. But how can we hope to address these global concerns when a large portion of scientific voices from the Global South are unheard, and their research remains unseen?  

Learning tailored for and from the Global South 

Recognising this problem, AuthorAID offers quality online learning, training, and resources tailored to ECRs from the Global South. AuthorAID is a community where experienced professionals mentor the next generation of researchers, where networks are formed around common research objectives, and where a platform is provided for young researchers to amplify their voices. 

This year, AuthorAID has continued to thrive, with its members at the heart of this success. The numbers speak for themselves: in this year’s member survey, 71% of considered AuthorAID as ‘extremely important’ or ‘very important’ in advancing their career. 82% have recommended AuthorAID’s services to other researchers or professionals in their networks, and 65% have successfully published a paper since becoming involved with AuthorAID.  

Social learning at a global scale  

In our commitment to providing high quality learning opportunities to ECRs, we ran two Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) that attracted a total of 5000 learners. “Getting Started with Writing and Publishing Your Research”, a firm favourite among AuthorAID members, was joined in the course lineup by our brand-new MOOC, “Mastering Grant Proposal Writing: Pathways to Successful Research Funding”. Both research writing and winning grants are what our members tell us they most need support in. After completing the MOOCs, learners reported an average of 81% increase in confidence in their skills. The impact of these courses is reflected across many dimensions of young researchers’ careers, as evidenced by our 2023 member survey and course feedback surveys: 

  • Success in securing a mentor who helped with successful PhD application 
  • Greater independence as a researcher, less reliance on supervisor 
  • The ability to guide colleagues and peers to assist them to publish 
  • The ability to supervise student dissertations more effectively 
  • The ability to read student work more critically 
  • Improved clarity and structure of writing 
  • Improved understanding of research ethics 
  • Improved understanding of peer review 
A Nigerian woman and man, sitting at a table and looking at a laptop

Ifeoluwa Bodunde and colleague, “Getting Started with Writing and Publishing Your Research” participants, Nigeria

“I have taken this course for the last three years, so I have written two papers and submitted them to reputable journals. I have received the reviewers’ comments, and the course has helped me a lot.” (Man, Somalia)

“This was an essential and fascinating course I enjoyed and made more progress in my career” (Woman, Ethiopia)

“This course answered all the questions that has been bothering me for many years. It brought back my confidence.”  (Woman, Nigeria)

AuthorAID MOOCs can also be tailored as sponsored courses for specific groups. For the National Institute of Health and Research (NIHR)’s Global Health Academy, we ran a combined research and proposal writing course for over 100 researchers across the Global South. Facilitated by experienced researchers from the AuthorAID community, participants have told us the impact it’s had on their confidence and careers: 

“Through these two courses, I can feel confident doing research, knowing that I’m doing the right thing. I have understood several domains of research and confidently, I can use the skills I gained in this course to write and publish. In winning funds for global health research, I didn’t know how people write grants and win. I believe using the skills I have gained, I will be able to write and win a grant. I have known also to find and connect with other collaborators. I’m so grateful for this course.” (Woman, Kenya) 

Learning on demand 

Alongside our MOOCs, AuthorAID offers a range of self-study courses which address ECRs’ needs, like “Research communication for policy engagement” and “Academic writing skills”. Completers of the self-paced course “Facilitating Events and Courses in an Online World” join the diverse pool of AuthorAID online facilitators, who then contribute to our MOOCs, webinars, and hosting online networking events. These monthly events continue in popularity and offer a monthly opportunity for learning and career development for early career researchers. New “online facilitator bootcamps” were launched in the second half of the year, in which researchers learned how to run their own research writing online workshops – including practice sessions. Selected participants have already run their own research writing sessions for the AuthorAID community. 

But the member contributions don’t stop there: throughout 2023, we published a new blog post every week, authored by AuthorAID community members. These blog posts cover academic writing advice, career tips, and more recently also takes on the use of artificial intelligence in research 

Powering the community through new hubs  

The AuthorAID journal clubs continue to flourish (with a new one on climate science created this year), as have our AuthorAID community hubs, both of which are entirely community-run. Three of these hubs (from Nigeria, Ghana, and Nepal) collaborated on a mentorship scheme, pairing small groups of mentees with mentors based on thematic areas. Several achievements were reported, among them 34 successful mentor pairings and three published research articles. The Ghana hub conducted a skill building program on blog writing, guiding young Ghanian researchers on effective research communication. Meanwhile, the Nigeria hub hosted and facilitated a special MOOC cohort for over 1500 Nigerian researchers alongside our research writing MOOC. 

New stewards to root us more strongly 

To strengthen our global reach and to reflect the growth of the community, the AuthorAID steward team welcomed eight new foundational stewards from Honduras, Burkina Faso, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Vietnam. New representation from Francophone Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central America will benefit the community and broaden AuthorAID’s reach.  

Join us in 2024! 

Just like the rapidly changing digital environment we find ourselves in, AuthorAID continues to expand and adapt each year. But the goal remains the same: to support and equip early career researchers from the Global South to serve their communities. Building on the lessons and successes of 2023, we are excited for further grow and develop AuthorAID in 2024, including a new MOOC to address ECRs’ most urgent needs and new formats of bite sized learning content that researchers can access when they need it. We invite you to follow along on this journey.  

Title image: Nancy Ackam, AuthorAID member and early career researcher, Ghana

Tabitha Buchner
Tabitha Buchner is a Programme Specialist at INASP.

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