2020 at NEMRA: The year of opportunities coated with challenges.
There was a lot of excitement in January 2020. NEMRA had a lot planned. Plans were underway to accelerate the network’s objectives towards 1) research capacity building, 2) doing interuniversity research projects and 3) mobilising more stakeholders around the NEMRA vision. We were set out to:
- Conduct 22 research workshops hosted by institutions within the NEMRA Mbarara and Kampala chapters
- Start a NEMRA Gulu chapter and conduct 6 research workshops in Northern Uganda
- Roll out the NEMRA mentorship programme
- Secure funding for and execute the research ideas developed in 2019 as well as write new proposals
- Increase our institutional and individual membership for a wider and stronger network.
- Enjoy a wide array of social events including visits to agricultural farms, women in academia breakfasts with Prof. Stella Neema, dinners and other get-together events
Two months into the year, we had conducted 2 research workshops in Kampala and 1 in Mbarara. The NEMRA ladies’ group had visited a farm and a pool of NEMRA mentors developed. The start to the lockdown in March slowed us down. There was a lot of uncertainty and we were concerned about our health and that of society generally. As a network we slowly started to accept the inevitable challenges and tried to spot the opportunities therein. Members mobilised resources and provided face masks to the Uganda Police Force Crime Detection Department at a time when the government was calling upon the public to support those who were in the high risk category of contracting the corona virus. This was the first step towards picking ourselves up to keep our heads high amidst the complexities. From there on, NEMRA felt the impact of the pandemic but the pandemic did not have NEMRA.
We have in the last nine months utilised the virtual space to conduct online discussions, seminars and mock vivas for our members as well as participate in various Covid-19 response webinars. In the past, some members were restricted by distance and/or time on weekends to be part of our capacity building activities. The virtual space brought us all together in a more convenient manner. The mentorship programme was also launched with senior academics from around the world linked to PhD students and Early Career Researchers as mentors.
NEMRA won its first grant in July to create an interuniversity R&I community for PhD students and early career researchers in Uganda (IRIC). The 5-year project started running in September. And, again the 2020 challenges motivated the team to come up with creative ways of executing IRIC. The global participation in the first quarter of the project has been way beyond our anticipation.In the picture on the right is IRIC team with the Deputy Director, Directorate of Research and Graduate Training at Makerere University in a partner institutions’ familiarisation meeting in November.
A lot more happened including holding our second anniversary celebration event, conducting our 1st Annual General Meeting, constituting the first members’ elected Board, and completion of PhD programmes by a number of our members including a Board member and NEMRA’s Company Secretary. The #nemrachanged stories are delight to read. We also had many join us as subscribed members within Africa and Europe. Our invitation to those in Asia, the Americas and other continents is very wide open.
We have picked experiences and lessons to carry with us to 2021. We will acquire more skills and expertise to do research and be effective researchers. We will carry out joint research projects. We will engage and impact society. And, we will stretch out to expand our network. Society needs research now more than ever before and we are going to continue to live NEMRA’s moto which is “Excellent Research for societal wellbeing”. Resilience is the guiding theme for 2021.
On behalf of the NEMRA Executive and on my own behalf, we wish you all a year of health, fruitfulness and impact.
Dr. Loice Natukunda.