Research methods, including statistics and biometry underlie effective applied science. Yet there is a decline in the number of professionals in these areas. Indeed studies done by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) in 2005 and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) in 2004 pointed out that this was a major gap area in most African National Agricultural Research System, with the majority including universities, not having any Biometrician/Research methodology specialist in place to guide research, leading to poor quality of research outputs in Africa. The lack of biometrician support was repeated mentioned by graduate students under FORUM (RUFORUM predecessor programme managed by the Rockefeller Foundation) as a major weakness in their training. Other recent evaluations also point to rapid changes in research and approaches. Biometricians and statisticians often fail to keep up, and may be seen as irrelevant by scientists. Thus, following regional consultations involving over 300 participants across the Eastern, Central and Southern Africa (ECSA) region, RUFORUM decided in 2006 to launch a regional programme to train a pool of research methods specialists that would be piloted initially in two Universities namely Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Kenya and the then Bunda College of Agriculture now Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources Malawi. It was recognised at the onset that a regional approach was needed to draw in experts from various universities to provide quality training of students drawn from different countries and different professional backgrounds. The graduates would provide a pool of mid level practical professionals to guide research in the region and Africa at large. The MSc. Research Methods programme includes innovative training for research managers, scientists and postgraduate students. The programme’s objective is to produce a new cohort of professionals able to support current multi-disciplinary research. Two main innovative features are that it is a professional training and it links methods to the context of research. The quality and reach of this initiative is enhanced through linkage to research systems in the region and use of experts from across the region. This is a regional program for Central, Eastern, and Southern Africa, which is taught at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Kenya.
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