Surviving and Thriving in the Post-Pandemic Era: Exploring Research, Science and Innovation at the University of Nigeria

By Chidi Nzeadibe, Geraldine Ugwuonah, Obinna Onwujekwe, Bennett Nwanguma, Theresa Ogbuanya, Paul Oranu, Emmanuel Ezeani, Chinonso Igwesi-Chidobe, Chizoba Obianuju Oranu, Paul Adeosun and Felix Egara
 
Why yet another conference on Covid-19 Pandemic?
COVID-19 pandemic is arguably the most serious global challenge since World War II. The 1st Annual Multidisciplinary International Conference of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) which took place from 5th – 7th July 2021 was convened to explore the role of research, science and innovation arising from the institution and elsewhere in surviving and thriving in the post-COVID era.  The theme of the maiden conference was A Whole New World: Research, Development and Innovation in the Pandemic Era. In his remark, the Vice-Chancellor of the institution, Professor Charles Arizechukwu Igwe, FAS, noted that the choice of this theme reflected the university’s recognition of the huge impact that COVID-19 continues to have on public health systems, society, food systems, education, and economies which have led to massive transformations in the way we live and work.
 
Mainstreaming Science and Innovation in Management of Pandemics- The UNN Example 
The pandemic has given rise to significant research, development and innovation possibilities across different fields of human endeavour, typically with the varying aims of understanding, overcoming or adapting to the challenges posed by COVID-19.  At the University of Nigeria, many researchers have sought to leverage the opportunities inherent in the adversity of the pandemic to come up with research outputs with huge potential to improve lives and livelihoods and for overcoming or adapting to the challenges posed by COVID-19. The UNN International conference brought together researchers, policymakers, development partners, NGOs and research funders both in Nigeria and beyond to explore research, development and innovations in various disciplines within the context of COVID-19. In line with the realities of the pandemic and to utilize innovations in ICT and remote learning and working, presentations at the conference were done virtually through the Zoom app. Other applicable COVID-19 protocols were also observed.
 
Science for Social Relevance: Views of the Public Health Expert
The conference keynote paper entitled A Whole New World: Research, Development and Innovation in the Post-Pandemic Era was presented by the globally acknowledged expert on Virology and Infectious Diseases, and Chairman of Nigeria’s Ministerial Expert Advisory Committee on COVID-19 (MEACoC), and former President of the Nigerian Academy of Science, Professor Oyewale Tomori, FAS. He described COVID-19 as ‘the evasive, invasive, elusive, invisible one’ that came to expose the underbelly of our decadent healthcare system and the depravity in our society. Harping on the role of Nigerian scientists in the fight against the pandemic, Prof Tomori averred that:
“the scientists in Nigeria should identify with and be seen by the society as part of the society, must be asking the right questions relating to the problems of our society, must focus research activities on the directions of questions asked, and in collaboration with the government must seek relevance in serving and meeting the identified needs of the society”.
 
Effective Science Communication: dispelling myth, providing context
In a goodwill message, conference partners – The Conversation Africa (TC-Africa) noted that researchers from the UNN have been writing for the website since 2016 in their mission to mainstream the voices of universities and scientists in the media and to support science engagement and science communication activities in Africa. So far, 41 authors from the UNN have published 37 articles (out of which 16 focused on COVID-19 and other health-related topics) which have been read over 200,000 times. With a monthly readership of 2.5 million, participation of TC-Africa is particularly significant to global dissemination of results of research from this conference. TC-Africa recently recognized the University of Nigeria among the Top Universities in Africa, and her researchers for the most published articles and most read article during the 2nd Annual West Africa Science Communication Awards.
 
Going forward: Translating research outputs to policy and action
Nearly 200 papers from multidisciplinary perspectives were presented in 33 panels and 6 technical sessions. Topical issues discussed and lessons included innovations in health systems and management, agricultural innovations and food security, lifestyle changes and adaptive behaviours, urban planning innovations and informal settlements, sustainable education, remote learning and digital innovation, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).
A major impact of the conference was the massive public awareness it created, dispelling myths that Nigerians are immune to SARS-CoV-2 and that COVID-19 is a hoax, and also providing context on the pandemic through timely publications in print and electronic media. Research funders both in Nigeria and outside the country were urged to key into the research, development and innovations possibilities at this conference and collaborate with the university to support uptake of the outputs of this conference and other related research projects. It is expected that the quantum of ideas, methodologies and actionable policy recommendations from this conference will contribute immeasurably to global effort at dealing with the pandemic and that products of this conference will help to chart a new development course in the post-pandemic era.
 
Authors’ bios
  • Chidi Nzeadibe is Professor of Geography and Chair of the Conference Committee Twitter: @NzeadibeChidi
  • Obinna Onwujekwe is Professor of health economics, policy and pharmacoeconomics, and, Director of Research, UNN
  • Geraldine Ugwuonah is Professor of Marketing
  • Bennett Nwanguma is Professor of Biochemistry and Chair, Senate Ceremonials Committee, UNN
  • Theresa Ogbuanya is Professor of Industrial Technical Education   
  • Paul Oranu is the Director of ICT, UNN                                             
  • Emmanuel Ezeani is Professor of Political Science and Director UNN Consult
  • Chinonso Igwesi-Chidobe is a Senior Lecturer in Medical Rehabilitation
  • Chizoba Oranu is a Lecturer in Agricultural Economics
  • Paul Adeosun is a Lecturer in Agricultural Economics
  • Felix Egara is a Lecturer in Science Education and Conference Committee Secretary.
 
Acknowledgement
We acknowledge Dr Charles Orjiakor for the review of this blog.
 
How to Cite
Nzeadibe, C., Ugwuonah, G., Onwujekwe, O., Nwanguma, B., Ogbuanya, T., Oranu, P., …, Egara, F. (2022). Surviving and thriving in the post-pandemic era: exploring research, science and innovation at the University of Nigeria. https://hprgunn.com/surviving-and-thriving-in-the-post-pandemic-era-exploring-research-science-and-innovation-at-the-university-of-nigeria/

Nexus of Science and Evidence-based Decision Making in strengthening the health system in Nigeria: Public lecture of Prof Obinna Onwujekwe at the Nigeria Academy of Science

On May 12, 2022 Prof Obinna Onwujekwe gave a public lecture at the induction of fellows into the Nigeria Academy of Science. The lecture was titled, “Nexus of Science and Evidence-based Decision Making Towards a Responsive and Strong Nigerian Health System”. Prof Obinna gave practical examples of getting research into policy and practice, stating that it is an ideal every scientist should aspire to, and it is the key driver of the Health Policy Research Group, University of Nigeria. Emphasis was laid on utilizing non-academic means to communicate research, such as blogs, policy briefs, podcasts, filming, etc., as they attain wider reach and appeal more to policymakers and the wider public than the technically written scientific publications. He went ahead to discuss stakeholders’ identification, engagement, relationship building, and the real-life value that is brought to research by the Outcome Mapping strategy. The public lecture was received well by fellows and other attendees, as they were challenged to ensure that they move quality studies away from the papers and shelves into policies and programmes that will benefit society.

 

Click here to download the full presentation

 

Prof Obinna making his delivery

 

Scientists from the Health Policy Research Group, University of Nigeria rank highly on the globe – AD Scientific Index 2021

In a recent ranking of scientists on the globe, scholars from the Health Policy Research Group took top spots. Professors Obinna Onwujekwe and Benjamin Uzochukwu who are both academics at the University of Nigeria and founders of the renowned Health Policy Research Group clinched 1st and 3rd positions respectively, as top scientists in the University of Nigeria with over 3000 academic staff. The ranking is done by AD Scientific Index.
Prof Obinna Onwujekwe
At country-level, Obinna Onwujekwe ranks 3rd, 171 in the African region, and 39940 on the globe. Whereas, Benjamin Uzochukwu popularly known as BSC ranks 8th in Nigeria, 271 in the African region, and 54284 on the globe. Obinna and Benjamin are each with over 300 research items on ResearchGate, and combined citations of almost 34,000 as calculated by Google Scholar.
Prof Benjamin Uzochukwu
Interestingly, AD Scientific Index has moved beyond citations’ counts to focusing on the actual impact of scientific outputs which can be sourced by designing algorithms around i10 index, h-index and citation scores. You can read more on AD Scientific Index here. It is, therefore, right to say that the duo are impactful scientists, putting the University of Nigeria and the African Scientific Community on the map of global excellence.
Overall, 10 scientists from the University of Nigeria are within the top-100 in the country, and 6 made it to Africa’s top-1000. Their names include Chinua Achebe, Peter Akah, Nnabuk Okon, Joe Mbagwu, James Ogbonna, Martin Eze, Fabian Ezema, and Anthony Attama. You can find more here.
Interacting with Professors Obinna and Benjamin, it is evident that they do not intend to retire from their craft anytime soon. They have extended their wealth of knowledge to younger academics and researchers across the globe, and are indeed worthy models and mentors in the academic community. The Health Policy Research Group which is their brainchild is a no-brainer when it comes to research excellence. It is today, powered by the proteges of the Professors, some of whom are now Professors. Indeed, hearty congratulations to Professors Obinna and Benjamin on this deserving feat.