The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) works for better lives through livestock in developing countries. ILRI is co-hosted by Kenya and Ethiopia, has 14 offices across Asia and Africa, and employs some 700 staff, about 27% of which are research and research support staff. Many of the most pressing global challenges today involve livestock as more than half a billion people in developing nations depend in whole or in part on livestock for their livelihoods.
ILRI began subscribing to Nature Masterclasses in December 2018. We spoke with Wellington Ekaya, Head of Capacity Development.
Why did you take out a subscription to Nature Masterclasses?
ILRI has a research for development mandate, and capacity development is both one of ILRI’s three strategic objectives and one of ILRI’s five critical success factors. ILRI’s key evaluation metrics include the amount and quality of scientific papers published each year. We also want to ensure that the 200+ fellows we host every year leave ILRI with sharp scientific writing and other soft skills that will propel them along their career and livestock research for development professional pathways.
We learned more about what Nature Masterclasses could offer and took it up as both a great opportunity and tool to help us grow the skills needed to increase the number and quality of publications coming out of ILRI research; both from staff and the fellows we host through our Capacity Development portfolio.
How do you use Nature Masterclasses?
There is so much excitement about this resource! We chose to take advantage of the free launch presentation offered by Nature Research, and this built upon the initial engagement. It offered our researchers a detailed overview of what the platform can offer – a course for those completely new to the writing and publishing process and a learning resource to those who have previously published and/or are more experienced.
So far we are using the Scientific Writing and Publishing online course for training staff and over 200 fellows (including PhD and MSc students) that we host per year. The course is strengthening their skills and confidence in scientific writing and publishing and also demystifying the journal publication process.
What have been the benefits of using Nature Masterclasses so far?
Already the course has saved on the costs of training and has freed up some of our senior researchers’ time. We have been able to train many people within a short time.
What will Nature Masterclasses help your organization achieve?
It will help us to save on the costs of training our early-career researchers as well as train a higher number of people per year through self-learning. It would also increase the number of our publications (due to an increased rate of acceptance from journals) and improve the quality of our publications. Overall ILRI’s capacity development portfolio aims at strengthening the capacity to conduct and to use outputs from research. Strong writing and publication skills are an essential ingredient in conducting research.
Previously we spent a huge amount of money on scientific writing and publishing training – flying people to a common venue and covering accommodation and conference costs. We could thus only train a limited number of people per session and per year.
The courses would normally be conducted for a maximum of six days, so the coverage and the scope of trainee individual needs being met was always very limited. Nature Masterclasses online training came in handy to address these challenges, and ILRI is now able to deliver the course both more deeply and at scale, within a very flexible time-space for all people taking the course. Further, the resource is continuously available for self-learning.
What is your advice for organizations to make the most out of Nature Masterclasses?
For greatest impact, I would recommend that organizations integrate the course into organizational and staff annual development plans.
It is also useful to identify a dedicated ‘champion’ within the organization to popularize the course, help resolve any start-up hitches, create the rapport between the organization and Nature Research, track researchers' progress, and be responsible for the implementation process.
Finally, I would suggest institutions invest in good support structures and their internet connection.