Afrique One-ASPIRE training: The post-doctoral training assistants assessed the training needs of the recently fellows recruited

27 April 2017

Dr Aurélie Cailleau and Dr Katharina Kreppel, both respectively Western and Eastern Africa Post-Doctoral Training Assistant (PDTA) of Afrique One-ASPIRE, hold a two-days meeting at Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques en Côte d’Ivoire (CSRS) to assess the training needs of the 44 Afrique One-ASPIRE fellows recently recruited. In this interview, they come back on the training milestones for Afrique One-ASPIRE.

Afrique One-ASPIRE: What strategy did Afrique One-ASPIRE plan to fill in the gap in the training area for the African scientists?

Our strategy is to train a cohort of 44 master, PhD and postdoctoral fellows in the five years to come. They will take part in summer schools were transversal training modules will be addressed (like e.g. statistics, grant writing, article writing, etc.) and in short courses that will answer needs that are more specific to some research topic (e.g. molecular biology, mathematical modelling). We also plan to give trainings to the group of supervisors to provide them with supervisory tools and a knowledge of One Health framework. Eventually, we plan to organise ‘Introduction to the research culture’ days within universities to make graduate students aware of research careers opportunities.

Afrique One-ASPIRE: What are the milestones of this strategy?

Our first milestone was to recruit the fellows. This was achieved last February. Now, they are consolidating their research protocols and will soon meet with their TTP leaders during inception meetings.  In September 2017, the first summer school will take place, initiating the cohort spirit that will unite them in the long term as the next generation of One Health researchers. Master students might defend after two years. Therefore, we will support them to attract new grants to pursue their PhD within the consortium. We will accompany all our fellows to build their curricula, particularly by attracting grants and publishing in high ranked journals. At the end of the DELTAS Africa initiative, we should have a cohort of more than 50 well-trained young scientists acquainted with One health approach and ready to be independent leaders and attract their own funds to do high quality research.

Afrique One-ASPIRE: In March 2016, you sent to the Afrique One-ASPIRE fellows a form to assess their training needs. What are the main outcomes?

The main training need that appear according to the questionnaires are statistics, molecular biology and project management. These aspects are often weak in the curricula of universities. We organised a feedback session to discuss the questionnaire results with some of the fellows, as it appeared that they were not always aware of the consortium’s expectations. We will take the opportunity of the first summer school to discuss in depth the programme’s expectations.

Afrique One-ASPIRE: What are the next challenges?

One challenge is certainly that fellows have different levels of knowledge. Some of them benefited from a couple of our courses during the first phase, while other fellows (about half of them) have different skills. We have to organise courses that are beneficial to all of them, although they might have different needs.  Moreover, we should also be able to take this as an opportunity to share their different expertise and build upon that.

Another challenge might be to connect to other DELTAS programmes to create more training opportunities. To build the connection, we will invite trainees from other consortia to take part in our training sessions and us, being post-doctoral training assistants will connect with DELTAS directors to identify possible collaboration pathways.

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