Learning to Research and emerge in the Academia: 4 Key lessons from the Ife Summer Institute for Early Career Researchers

Learning to Research and emerge in the Academia: 4 Key lessons from the Ife Summer Institute for Early Career Researchers

As an emerging scholar and an early career researcher, I have always looked forward to opportunities to learn more to do what I dedicate myself to when I accepted a teaching appointment in a university.  Every researcher performs three clear duties to the society – teaching, research and community service. So, for me every opportunity to learn is a chance to get exposed to best practices in every facet of life. Thus, when I saw the flier to apply for the Ife Summer Institute (organized by Ife Institute of Advanced Studies) with the theme “Exploring New Frontiers: Knowledge Creation, Collaboration and Dissemination”, I knew it was one of the learning experiences I would love to be part of. There are reasons for this. One, as a university teacher and researcher, I have recently felt strongly about the need to deploy my skills as a researcher for the development of the society. I mean to make more impact as a person. Two, I was fascinated by the keywords in the theme – knowledge creation, collaboration and dissemination. 

Every researcher creates knowledge in some way both in the classroom and on the research field. And one of the ways to get the created knowledge to the public is through dissemination. Again, the recent trend in academia is collaboration of researchers both within and outside of their fields. In a nutshell, these three keywords in the theme spurred me into action! I applied to the Institute and was waiting to be notified of my acceptance or rejection. That was even before COVID 19 became a topical issue in Nigeria. So, this piece is about detailing my experience while the summer institute lasted. I had earlier captured the opening ceremony here

Basically, the organizers of the summer institute demonstrated a clear understanding of the terrain. This reflected in the varieties of issues discussed and the diversity of the professors put together to deliver lectures, take part in panel discussions and even anchor some of the events. From the keynote address to the last panel discussion, there was no point that fellows were not picking important lessons they could deploy to drive their career and academic studies forward. Thus, the first lesson I picked from my participation in the summer institute was in anything I do, I should have a thorough understanding of the contexts and the issues involved.

Secondly, the quality of the speakers of the institute was top notch. It was a combination of established academics from Africa, Europe, America and Asia. Some of the best of the Nigerian academia at home and in the Diaspora were selected to take on issues that impede emerging upcoming scholars. The scope and the varieties of the topics for discussion were deep. Experiences were shared on how to maintain visibility, drive young careers and contribute to global intellectual conversations in a meaningful manner. 

For me, the sharing of experiences opened my eyes to new ways of doing things. It as well validated some of the other knowledge and practices I had picked up before the summer institute. Two major nuggets have continued to re-echo in my mind- to make myself reasonably scarce and to claim spaces as I drive my career forward. So, experiential learning is one of the best ways to demonstrate the vast possibilities that lie ahead of emerging scholars.

If the quality of the speakers was top notch, the arrangement of the issues on the focus areas was excellent. Each key word in the overall theme is deeply reflected in all the sessions. Right from the keynote at the opening session to the reception of fellows at the closing programme, the major component parts of the central theme kept coming up – engage in groundbreaking knowledge production by collaborating both within and outside of your disciplines and find a way to disseminate the products of such research endeavours. Sessions- on mentorship and networking, research writing, methodology, remote teaching and digital pedagogies- pointed at the key areas of knowledge production, dissemination and collaboration.

Lastly, from experiences shared and in depth discussions, I clearly understand that academia, like other careers, has its own problems. I equally learnt that no career regardless of the locations where it is being pursued is without its pain points and problems. The only clear way ahead is to confront the problems and continue to push the boundaries of the possibilities and opportunities that such problems present. For instance, rejection of proposals, abstracts and articles by grant making bodies and research outlets is a major part of the deal in scientific writing. It was also well emphasized that researchers and university teachers would have to learn to make the best of their institutional contexts and situations and continue to strive to make the best of their careers. That is what defines scholars that intend to break barriers through conducting interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary   research and contributing meaningfully to global conversations of knowledge production.

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