A “Whole Village” Approach to Developing Research Data Scientists
Although many training initiatives exist today to teach researchers and postgraduate students critical research skills such as data analysis, cloud-computing, statistics, and programming, many of these initiatives fail to develop sustainable capacity in research groups in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMIC). Postgraduate students and researchers participate in workshop after workshop and have access to online training and resources, and yet they are often neither able to implement the newly gained knowledge in their day-to-day research nor teach colleagues new skills based on what was learned during a workshop.
Limited access to infrastructure such as adequate computers, internet, and relevant software packages could be blamed for this phenomenon, but very often, researchers and postgraduate students with sufficient access to resources are still unable to implement new knowledge in their research. We share lessons learned in the South African context in terms of general capacity building initiatives and hope the paper will provide some insights which might lead to improved translation of theoretical workshop content to new research practice. The paper may provide insights for curriculum developers and funders of capacity building initiatives.
In summary, this paper explores the possibility of achieving better training outcomes when a broader segment of the academic institution is involved in training initiatives geared to helping researchers develop critical data skills needed in the 21st century. For the purpose of brevity, we will use the term “researchers” to refer to academic staff, technical support staff within research groups, postdoctoral research fellows, postgraduate students, as well as undergraduate students participating in research endeavours.