A major goal of the TRADE Hub is to help countries manage, share, and apply their research, thus strengthening their impact capacity. A central tenant of the TRADE Hub capacity building programme is that it is co-designed and equitable. Therefore, a Capacity Building Needs Assessment was undertaken at the start of the project, seeking input from all researchers working across the project.
Respondents of the Capacity Building Needs Assessment were asked to identify areas where training or support was required, and also indicate the priorities among those needs. Input came from researchers representing a diverse range of nationalities, ethnic backgrounds, ages and genders, with 32 languages being spoken across Trade Hub. This means we can be confident that responses represent an equitable picture of the capacity building needs of the project. This feedback has enabled the Capacity Building work package to identify key capacity building areas for TRADE Hub partners. These areas include scientific writing, publication skills and research ethics.
TRADE Hub Publication Mentoring Scheme
One priority area identified by the Capacity Building Needs Assessment was scientific writing; we have therefore created a TRADE Hub Publication Mentoring Scheme, open to all researchers working on TRADE Hub. This scheme pairs experienced researchers with less experienced colleagues who provide support in developing the mentee’s research for publication in scientific journals. This is important at an individual level as it increases researchers’ abilities to gain international recognition for their work, but it is also important at an institutional level as researchers increase their knowledge of scientific publishing processes, which can then be shared with their institutional colleagues and students. It also helps the TRADE Hub maximise its scientific impact.
Although in its early stages, the scheme has received positive feedback and already had an impact on capacity development across the Hub. Mentees are supported in developing key skills that will help to further their research careers and improve their publication record. Mentees also benefit from the networking opportunities that the scheme offers, as they get the chance to work with senior researchers from different research institutions, often in a different country. Mentors benefit from having an opportunity to network with early career researchers who they may otherwise not have had the chance to work with directly. Mentors also gain teaching experience and taking part in the scheme adds to their professional development.
There have also been wider benefits beyond the mentors and mentees themselves, as their colleagues benefit indirectly, for example through additional support for co-authored papers, or through networking opportunities from mentees giving talks to their mentor’s lab group. Through this mentoring process, capacity will continue to improve across the Hubs 150 researchers. For example, in the Congo Basin, a scheme based on this model has recently been developed, focusing on priorities identified for the region including framing research questions and journal selection.
Internal training programme
Despite funding uncertainty due to UK government funding reductions for overseas development assistance, some internal training, based on the Capacity Building Needs Assessment, has already been implemented. An example of this is the recent training given by the Confederation of British Industry to early career researchers at the National Observatory for Climate Change in Cameroon about the different uses of Google Earth Engine for monitoring climate change globally. Another example is the training developed by Institut Pertanian Bogor University, supported by the Centre for International Forestry Research and University of Indonesia, on Stakeholder Network Analysis and Qualitative Analysis. This training focused on the use of specialised analysis and software to develop robust knowledge products, to underpin better decision-making processes, policy formulation, and effective science-policy implementation, focusing on its application in biodiversity-friendly oil palm production.
TRADE Hub training programme
From the Capacity Needs Assessment, a Hub-wide training programme was developed, including training on human research ethics in wild meat studies. One impact of this was a workshop engaging different audiences in conservation, with an introduction to trade policy analysis and better data visualisation.
In summary, the capacity building work undertaken by TRADE Hub, although still at an early stage, is already having a positive real-world impact. Through the development of key scientific skills, such as scientific writing, researchers from the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) institutions who are part of the Hub are being supported in establishing themselves and publishing their research in leading international journals. This enables the work done by TRADE Hub researchers to reach the widest possible audience to disseminate findings and inform policy, thereby ensuring a strong evidence-base for sustainable trade into the future beyond the lifetime of the Hub. By fostering networking and increased collaboration between institutions, TRADE Hub will ensure enhanced capacity for cutting edge scientific research into the future, not only within the UK but among our international partners. This will act as a guarantee for long term benefits in the development of more sustainable and equitable trade systems.