Visiting researchers after Research Completion Calls

At Ugandan universities high quality research is being performed that leads to dissertations, master theses, doctoral thesis, etc. However, many data remain unexplored, results are not disseminated to a wider audience or innovations and research are not translated into policies or development initiatives. Researchers often do not have sufficient time or competences to write a scientific article or a research paper, notwithstanding the necessary research data to do so is available. For this reason, the HEFS Platform launches Completion Grant Calls that provide Ugandan scholars the opportunity to complete and disseminate stagnating or sleeping research outputs.

Via the calls scholars can submit a proposal  that aims at harvesting research results of finished projects related to health, food and environmental (in)security. In December 2013 the first Grant Completion Call was launched. It was a successful round whereby ten applicants submitted an eligible proposal and seven were eventually selected. In July 2014 the second Call had 28 applicants and 7 were pre-selected. 6 of them were rewarded a short research stay at a university in Belgium and/or a capacity building course. At the beginning of 2016 a third call was launched, which resulted in the organisation of short research stays in both 2016 and 2017. In March 2017 a fourth call was launced, whereby the succesfull scholars are currently being awared in the course of 2017, and the beginning of 2018. Hereby an overview of all successful scholars:

Selected scholars after fourth Call (March 2017)

John Sekajugo

Affiliation: Busitema University

Host university: KULeuven

Period: 1/2/18-30/4/18

Research title: Soil organic carbon stock dynamics in forest and croplands of the mount Elgon region, Uganda

Output of SRS: In this research stay, I have gained more  skills in data analysis and standard research paper writing. R software is a software I have learnt and will transfer this knowledge to my university for use during modelling environmental variables, to monitor their trends for policy development. The results of this research - if well disseminated - will inform decision makers, especially the ministry of agriculture, animal industry and fisheries, in its efforts to implement sustainable land management practices as an option for climate change adaptation.

Experience: This grant gave me an opportunity to access guidance and mentorship from very experience professors at Kuleuven, access to the relevant reading material from internet and time to concentrate on research work. The training in land evaluation using GIS will enable me better address issues of land use and land use change in Uganda through training students at my university and performing research activities. At the end I have been able to produce a paper for publication which was my main goal. In my opinion, I have achieved more than I had anticipated and therefore thank VLIR-UOS through the HEFS platform for giving me the opportunity and my host promoters (Dr. Bruno Verbist, Prof. Bart Muys and Prof. Jos van Orshoven) for accepting to be my research mentors and for giving their time whenever I needed them.

Justus Biryomumaisho

Affiliation: Makerere University

Host university: In Uganda research stay at Makerere University

Period: 10/7-7/9/17 (two month SRS in Uganda)

Research title: Information Communication Technology (ICT) Interventions towards HIV/Aids Research: Past, Present and Future Prospects

Output of SRS: Concept paper completed, Proposal completed, Data collection questionnaires designed, approved and Proposal submitted to Institutional review Board (IRB) for review i.e JCRC IRB. The final output i.e. research paper will have findings of the current interventions, challenges, recommendations for new ICT interventions that can improve HIV service delivery and research.

Experience: The grant supported me in the following ways: i) Internet access and stationary expenses; ii) Transport to visit case study institutions; iii) Facilitating data collection assistants.

Henry Komakech

Affiliation: Makerere University, School of Public Health

Host university: University of Antwerp

Period: 05/10-29/11/17

Research title: Changes in priority health services for host population in refugee hosting districts in Uganda

Output of SRS: The HEFS Platform at the Global Health Institute, University of Antwerp supported me achieve my goals of progressing and completing my Doctorate (Public Health). The Epidemiology and Biostatistics course was particularly helpful. With the assistance of an assigned tutor, I was able to complete analysis, and write manuscript. The whole programme has been particularly valuable because of its emphasis on strengthening research capacity, dissemination of results, findings and policy recommendations. I am currently completing the manuscripts awaiting for reviews from my doctoral advisors.

Experience: The course on Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Qualitative research methods (EBQ)  provided me with valuable skills and knowledge in understanding and progressing with my doctoral studies. The classes and blended learning sessions coupled with the excellent facilitators has provided me with an added thrust to complete my studies. Overall I have greater appreciation of Epidemiology and Biotatistics and its applications in contemporary medical and public health research.

Milton Rwangire

Affiliation: Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST)

Host university: In Uganda research stay at MUST

Period: 01/7-30/9/17 (three month SRS in Uganda)

Research title: Revitalizing Indigenous Knowledge: Integrating Indigenous Agricultural Knowledge into Modern Agricultural Practices for Sustainable Rural Household Food Security in Uganda

Output of SRS: The funding strengthened and enhanced my research capacity which the institute can utilise in supervising students at post graduate level.

Experience: The support enabled to analyse data that I had collected and even to look for more data to support my research. The support was substantial with regards to data analysis, though it was not enough with regards to the dissemination of my findings. I do appreciat the grant and the continued communication!

Charles Amone

Affiliation: Gulu University

Host university: Antwerp University

Period: 2/12/17 - 2/01/18

Research title: Cultural obstacles to Safe Male Circumcision among the Acholi people of Northern Uganda

Output of SRS: The grant supported my one month research at the Antwerp University’s Institute of Global Health. At the institute, I was exposed to world-class Medical and Social Science Journals that would have been hard to access here in Gulu University. The journals increased my understanding of HIV/AIDS and its preventive strategies. I also interacted with a number of scholars and specialists in different fields of study. They helped to critique my report and the draft journal article.

Experience: I enjoyed and benefited from the ambience at the Institute and the support of administrative staff that provided all I needed to conduct research and write my paper. The institute of Global Health at Uantwerp is well organised and offers an excellent academic environment. The only challenge is that I am still to receive support for disseminating my research findings.

Selected scholars after third Call (January 2016)

Ronald Agaba

Affiliation: Makerere University

Host university: Antwerp University

Period: 22 October – 30 November 2018

Research title: Breeding nutrient-rich yam bean (Pachyrhizus spp.) to improve food quality, availability and sustainability of farming systems in Uganda

Output of SRS: I had plans to conduct analysis on my genetic data and prepare manuscript for publication. I have finished drafting the paper and submitted it to peer review. I hope to submit it for publication by the end of March 2019. I was expectant to finish my doctoral training with support of HEFS platform! This was achieved!

Experience: I am privileged to have been awarded the HEFS Platform doctoral completion grant and especially to have been part of the EBQ 2018. The EBQ course gave me an opportunity to acquire new skills in biostatistics. The support was timely, well managed, transparently dispended and the additional logistics and events were memorable


Ronald Mulebeke

Affiliation: Makerere University

Host university: University of Antwerp

Period: 6/10-16/12/17

Research title: Additional Impact of Mass Drug Administration on malaria parasite prevalence in the context of Indoor Residual Spraying in a High Transmission setting in Uganda: a before and after analysis

Output of SRS: During the short research stay, I was able to conduct a comprehensive data management (data cleaning) for my research project. I was also able to come up with a clear analysis plan for the final results for the article. Preliminary analysis was done on two data sets (round one and two survey datasets). The first draft of a systematic review protocol about strategies for malaria elimination was developed. Work on the final draft is ongoing to be completed by end of January 2018. I attended a six weeks course in epidemiology, biostatistics and qualitative methods. This improved my skills in both quantitative and qualitative research methods.

Experience: I will apply the data management and analysis principles obtained, first to train the data team in my research group and secondly to analyse data to produce results which will be used to inform policy formulation in malaria control and elimination. The grant was very substantive and met my expectations.

Nolbert Gumisiriza

Affiliation: Makerere University

Host university: University of Antwerp

Period: 11/10-25/11/17

Research title: The characteristics of epileptic disorders in three selected districts of northern Uganda: a descriptive study

Output of SRS: Technical supervision, 6 weeks course in EBQ (Epidemiology-Biostatistics-Qualitative research). The grant contributed enormously in exposing me to knowledgeable and experienced scholars in the field of epidemiology, biostatistics and research in general. The lectures, practical exercises and the provided software has gone a long way in setting a good foundation for research and initiation of a PhD program. Through the PhD research, I intend to seek for answers and fill the missing knowledge gaps regarding epilepsy, nodding syndrome in areas endemic with onchocerciasis.

Experience: I also met other participants for different countries, cultures and professional experiences. Sharing living space enriched by general outlook on the global networking and got me many friends who I intend to continue networking with in my personal and professional life.

Prudence Kemigisha

Affiliation: Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST)

Host university: Institute of Development Policy and Management (IOB) , University of Antwerp

Period: 07/02 to 29/04/2017

Research title: Women land rights and household food security in Uganda, a case of Bushenyi District

Output of SRS: During the three months of my Short Research Stay at IOB, University of Antwerp, I worked on the empirical and literature review chapters with the guidance of my mentors.  I also did the harmonization with the other chapters of my thesis. I have managed to have a draft of the thesis which I have submitted to my Supervisor for review.

Experience: The award served my purpose because I was able to accomplish what I would not have achieved if I was to remain in my home environment. I was able to consistently focus on my project with minimum interruption, a factor that contributed greatly to the realization of the targets I had set for this period. 

Patricia Bamanyaki

Affiliation: Makerere University

Host university: Institute of Development Policy and Management (IOB) , University of Antwerp

Period: 08/10/2016 to 05/01/2017

Research title: Evaluating effects of local-level outside government gender budget initiatives in maternal health: An application of theory-based evaluation, process tracing and a quasi-experiment in Kabale, Uganda.

Output of SRS: Gender responsive budgeting is currently not well-entrenched in the academia in Uganda and is mainly spearheaded by civil society organisations and Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development. The outputs of this research may be used to develop academic course units on gender responsive budgeting, and the evaluation of gender mainstreaming interventions. The research output also appeals to architects and practitioners of gender budget initiatives, particularly at lower levels of government, as it offers fact-based evidence to inform programming.

Experience: "The granted support enabled me to be physically present in Antwerp for the pre-defence and public defence of the PhD. I was able to interact with members of my PhD commission and jury (from diverse disciplines), who provided insightful comments that substantively improved the final thesis. I appreciated that the Platform Call was open to Ugandan students based in universities in Belgium. The successful completion and defence of the PhD is attributed to the support received under the HEFS Platform Call."

Emmanuel Seremba

Affiliation: Makerere University

Host university: Global Health Institute, University of Antwerp

Period: 23/8 - 15/11/16

Research title: Early childhood transmission of viral hepatitis B among HIV and non-HIV infected mothers attending postnatal and immunization clinic at Gulu Hospital, Northern Uganda

Output of SRS: Performed data analysis, wrote a manuscript. Previously, it was not clear whether the national policy of starting to vaccinate children against viral hepatitis B at the age of 6-months was adequate for controlling the disease. It was postulated therefore, that some babies were being infected with this disease between birth and the first hepatitis B vaccine dose. Our work with a cohort of 619 babies has shown that this mode of disease transmission is rare. The current vaccination practice is adequate.

Experience: The application process was straight forward and the decisions of the selection panel were communicated shortly after the vetting of applicants. The staff in the Global Health Institute updated me at every stage and I was directed very well. My mentor was available and approachable. His guidance was a learning opportunity for me. As a clinician researcher, getting to know more about clinical epidemiology and biostatistics will improve my research skill.

Pius Mbuya Nina

Affiliation: Makerere University

Host university: University of Antwerp, Department of Biology

Period: 23/5 - 14/8/16

Research title: Risk Pathways and Spatial Variability of Zoonotic Brucellosis in Cattle: Implications for Pastoralists’ Development at the Nexus of Wildlife-Livestock in South western Uganda

Output of SRS: In a nutshell, it has been a success. I completed six chapters out of eight chapters of my PhD thesis; I revised the manuscript based on the reviewers’ comments and resubmitted it to Elservier (acta tropica journal) for publication and; I submitted abstract for One Health-Ecohealth Conference and my abstract has been accepted for presentation to the international delegates in Australia in December 2016.

Experience: "I am hugely indebted to the committee which selected my proposal for the support, especially Prof. Jean Pierre and the programme coordinator, Lemey Gwen. The award served my purpose and I am indeed pleased that I was able to accomplish what I wouldn’t have achieved even in six months at my home institution. I was able to utilize the benefits of being in a quiet environment, working in a place where everyone was willing to assist as well as interacting and sharing ideas with colleagues from other nationalities."

Estellina Namutebi

Affiliation: Uganda Martyrs University

Host university:  In Uganda research stay at Uganda Martyrs University

Period: 01/05 - 31/07/2016

Research title: Eco-socio impact of mineral resource mining in Karamoja region, Uganda

Output of SRS: I have submitted the research paper to the School of Postgraduate Studies and Research of Uganda Martyrs University for publication in the Journal of Sustainable Development. I have included the acknowledgement note of the support from HEFS, which will be included within my paper during the publication.

Experience: "First of all I am indebted to the platform for the support granted to me so that I was able to write my paper and I am sure it will soon be published. The grant was enough for me to write my research paper because I already had the data. I was able to finish the document and fortunately it was reviewed and sent back to me to make for correction based on the comments which were given. Consequently I wish such calls continue, because they will help junior researchers like me to do some good work in the academia."

Selected scholars after second Call (July 2015)

Benjamin Alipanga

Affiliation: Makerere University

Host university: Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Ghent University, Belgium

Period: 8/3/15-30/5/15

Research title: The impact of violent behaviour in adolescents on post-conflict recovery processes in Northern Uganda

Output of SRS:  Successful completion of his PhD thesis

Experience: "My experience with the grant has been made particularly wonderful by the high level of organization exhibited by the concerned personnel. Everything, starting from visa processing, up to the practical life in Belgium has been well planned and executed."

Medard Twinamatsiko

Affiliation: Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST)

Host university: Institute of Development Policy and Management (IOB), Antwerp University, Belgium

Period: 14/2/15-13/5/15

Research title: Responding to policy practice gaps: revenu sharing policy implementation and livelihoods of people boardering Bwindi impenetrable national park

Output of SRS: 1) Daft of a journal paper entitled “Can Governance in Revenue Sharing be a Path Way for a Win-Win Situation between People’s Livelihood Improvement and Conservation”; 2) Completion of the third draft of my thesis and submitted it to my mentor and local supervisors for review. I expect to submit my thesis to MUST for examination in June 2015 ; 3) Submitted a manuscript to the Journal of Social Sciences Research (JSSR) for publication.

Experience: "I really appreciate this arrangement where young scholars from developing countries can have a chance to interact with well-developed systems in academia such as e-library material access and data analysis software. The platform is vital and should continue to uplift the plight of young scholars. The coordinators of the platform are reliable and supportive."

Julius Tanayen

Affiliation: Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST)

Host university: Catholic University Leuven, Belgium

Period: 31/1/15-30/4/15

Research title: Antidiabetic studies of Spathodea campanulata (P. Beauv.) Bignoniaceae stem bark extract on alloxanised rats

Output of SRS: 1) Two publications have been written. One has been accepted for publication in the British Journal of Pharmacology and Toxicology. The second is being reviewed by the Pharmacognosy Journal. 2) My PhD thesis has been written and is in the process of review by my promotor in KULeuven. 

Experience: "The grant facilitated the process of writing up the publicatons and the thesis. The SRS was well-organised and the support met my expectations."

Jane Namukasa Wanyama

Affiliation: Makerere University

Host university:  Antwerp University, Belgium

Period: 1/6/15 - 4/7/15

Research title: Long-term HIV Treatment Adherence and Risk Reduction among HIV infected Individuals in Kampala, Uganda: the Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI) experience

Output of SRS: I have been able to complete my registration at the Antwerp University, did literature review, and one of my research articles is almost complete. A second research article is also almost finished. I hope to finalize it soon after when I have returned to Uganda. Most importantly I have had the opportunity to work in direct supervision of my promoter Prof. Bob Colebunders.

Experience: The HEFS  support has been very important in that it enabled me to come to the University of Antwerp (UA), Belgium, and register for the PhD program. The SRS has given the opportunity to tap from the excellent faculty and state of the art resources that are least accessible in Uganda. I have had the opportunity to concentrate and focus on my project with limited interruption which would otherwise be inevitable if I stayed at home. As a result, I have made tremendous progress with writing of my scientific articles which has given me hope that with more concentration I can finish this PhD in the near future."

Joshua Wesana

Affiliation: Mountains of the Moon University

Host university:  Ghent University, Belgium

Period: 8/6/15 - 22/8/15

Research title: Analysis of the parents' and school authorities' reactions towards the use of biofortified foods in school feeding programs. An application of the Protection Motivation Theory to Lodine Enriched Legumes in Uganda.

Output of SRS: 1) I managed to work on a manuscript that has been published in the Appetite Journal. 2) I have prepared a journalistic article to compete for the Flemish Thesis Award. 3) I have been involved in development a research project proposal for the current VLIR-UOS TEAM call of 2015, with Mountains of the Moon University as one of the local partner institutions. This project aims at employing a stakeholder based intervention in a way applying agronomic biofortification to enhance iodine intake in Northern Uganda. 4) I wrote a manuscript that is going to be published as meta-analysis of studies using meta-regression techniques for statistical analysis. 5) I have been involved in writing a systematic review in collaboration with University of Bonn. A draft manuscript for publication is expected by December this year.

Experience: "The grant supported my stay here without which some of successes mentioned would not have been realised. This grant opened up opportunities to do more activities than what had been earlier planned. I was able to regularly meet my mentors and supervisors who guided me throughout the entire period with advice on how to perform the assign tasks better.  I was really moved by the flexibility of the platform; the freedom for a candidate to select a mentor of his choice is a positive. I personally found it easy to come into the division Ghent University where I have spent the SRS because I already knew the Professor and his team and so I integrated in easily and faster."


Selected scholars after first Call (December 2013)

Martin Mbonye

Affiliation: Infectious Diseases Institute, Makerere University

Host university: University of Antwerp, Belgium

Period: 9/9/14 - 8/12/14

Research title: Integrated Management of Infectious Diseases; Effect of Capacity Building Interventions on Malaria Case Management by Mid-Level Health Professionals in Rural Uganda

SRS output: I was not able to submit my PhD thesis, conduct mock defence and finalise it as planned. However, these papers were published, completed or accepted for publication: 1) 'Disease diagnosis in primary care in Uganda' was published; 2) 'Malaria care in infants aged under six months in Uganda: an area of unmet needs!' was accepted for publication; 3) Manuscript of 'Comparing the effect of educational outreach on infectious diseases management by mid-level health providers with and without prior core course: a cluster randomized trial in Uganda': data analysis completed.

Experiences: " I appreciated the fact that I was able to obtain funding for a much needed short research stay that enabled me make significant progress in my research. The support facilitated my travel to and upkeep while in Antwerp. I was able to work with my professors to significantly move forward my PhD thesis. The support met all my expectations."

Pius Nina

Affiliation: Department of Biological Sciences, Makerere University

Host university: University of Antwerp, Belgium

Period: 25/4/15 - 18/7/15

Research title: Diseases affecting livestock production influence changes on landscape scale of pasture regime in Lake Mburo Conservation Area, Uganda

SRS output: 1) Articles submitted: 15 June 2015: Acta Tropica – Elservier Journal; 10 July 2015: Ecohealth journal; 2) Articles due for submission: “Pastoralism” Springer Journal 31 July 2015;   3) Three chapters of the Draft PhD Dissertation.

Experiences: I must sincerely return my open and particular praise to the organizers and coordinators of VLIR-HEFS Platform. In my own assessment, of course within the confines of my program, it has been a success. I surely could not expect more,  the support served my purpose. I had a good office space and a desk with wonderful colleagues to consult and exchange notes regularly; I got all the support I needed within the department where I was assigned. The accommodation was excellent with relative peace, but more to it was the cultural diversity.  I had perfect access to eLibrary books and journal articles which would have been so difficult to access from my home institution. My contact with and working under the supervision of Prof. Leirs Herwig was the most enriching experience I have ever had as a young researcher. He inspired me and challenged me in ways I am sure he is not even aware of. I enjoyed a quiet and cool environment, condusive indeed for academic work. Being away from home and routine activities was in fact an added advantage.

How could I then fail to realize the outputs highlighted above? It is our  success, cheers!

Frank Ahimbisibwe

Affiliation: Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST)

Host University: Institute of Development Policy and Management (IOB), University of Antwerp, Belgium

Period: 8/4/14 - 7/7/14

Research title: The Host State and Refugee Security in Uganda: the case of Rwandan refugees

SRS output: Successful completion of a draft of my PhD thesis that was sent to two examiners for review and comments

Experiences: "My hosts in Belgium were hospitable. The grant support enabled me to write and complete my PhD thesis. It is upon the completion of my PhD that I have been given new responsibilities as I have been tasked to head the task force of establishing a Center for the Study of Forced Migration at the university."

Geoffrey Musinguzi

Affiliation: Makerere University of Public Health

Host University:  University of Antwerp, Belgium

Period: 1/10/14 - 20/12/14

Research title: Gaps in the current strategies to manage hypertension at the health facilities in Mukono and Buikwe district in Uganda

SRS output: 1)  A full paper – Capacity if Health facilities to provide serves for hypertension was developed and submitted for peer review to Plos One. The study concluded that Health facilities in Mukono and Buikwe were inadequately prepared to manage hypertension; 2) The second was a partial analysis of the qualitative study on factors influencing health seeking behaviour for hypertension among the hypertensive in Mukono and Buikwe.

Experience: "The grant was an excellent opportunity to put off protected time and concentrate on my research from the daily hassles which otherwise I wouldn’t have avoided. I was able to concentrate, consult with supervisor and produce timely results. In addition, I benefited greatly from the EBQ course. It enhanced my knowledge and skill in analysis of both qualitative and quantitative data."

Joseph Ngonzi

Affiliation: Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST)

Host University:  University of Antwerp, Belgium

Period: 18/10/14 - 8/12/14

Research title: Puerperal sepsis, the leading cause of maternal deaths at a Tertiary University Teaching Hospital in Uganda

SRS output: Finished draft of my paper, submission planned on 27th March 201. The study was a retrospective unmatched case control study which was carried out at the maternity unit of Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital (MRRH). Most maternal deaths occur among mothers from rural areas, uneducated, HIV positive, unbooked mothers (lack of antenatal care), referred mothers in critical conditions and mothers delaying to seek health care. Further studies on exactly finding out the epidemiology, incidence and microbiology of puerperal sepsis in women delivering in our setting is very key in understanding better this topic and getting ways of contributing towards reduction of maternal deaths arising out of sepsis, which is the leading cause of maternal mortality in our setting. This will form the core component of my PhD work.

Experiences: "The expertize received during the EBQ training was very relevant to my research needs. The skills I gained helped me to analyse the data I had gone with and come up with a manuscript deliverable. We received very excellent teachings in the different relevant research fields from very excellent teachers. The platform support was very helpful and provided me with the great opportunity of meeting excellent teachers and colleagues from different parts of the World. The learning environment was very friendly and conducive. The lectures were very relevant to my research needs and career path."

Aggrey David Mukose

Affiliation: Makerere University of Public Health

Host University:  University of Antwerp, Belgium

Period: 1/10/14 - 20/12/14

Research title: Health system successes, challenges and suggested solutions in the implementation of Option B+ in Uganda from the providers’ perspective

SRS output: 1) Attended and completed the International Course in Epidemiology, Biostatistics & Qualitative Research Methods (EBQ) from October 20 – November 28, 2014; 2) Drafted a manuscript titled “Health system preparedness in the implementation of Option B+ in Uganda from the providers’ perspective” (Work in progress); 3)  Submitted my PhD application proposal titled “Implementation of Option B+ for Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV in Uganda: Health system preparedness, Uptake, Adherence, Male involvement and Retention in care”.

Experiences: "The whole process from advertising, selection and support while on the SRS were very organized. The support contributed by giving me funds to travel to and fro the University of Antwerp, paid for my tuition to enable the EBQ course, accommodation and all expenses related to my travel and stay in Belgium. This was a great opportunity to have protected time and concentrate on the short course, PhD application and research. I had the privilege to interact with researchers and academicians at the University of Antwerp which gave me an international exposure which is very critical for the PhD programme. The support was above my expectations and I am very grateful to the funders."