The training workshop organised by Rehab Al-Maghrabi through the Researcher Connect programme included young faculty members at Suez University to develop their abilities to explain science and present scientific content to university students

Communication skills are just as important as research skills for female and male researchers to develop their academic careers. Therefore, supporting and developing scientific research and innovation in Egypt also requires building the capacity of the research community in the fields of science communication and academic cooperation. To achieve this end, the Researcher Connect programme was launched in Egypt funded by the Newton-Mosharafa Fund.

The Researcher Connect programme is a science communication skills training course that aims to help researchers better communicate with their peers at the local and international levels and communicate their research more effectively. The programme includes a series of workshops dealing with the topics of academic cooperation, academic writing, communication skills, making attractive presentations, and writing proposals for research projects and grants. These workshops are delivered by expert trainers from the UK, within the framework of the Newton-Mosharafa Fund objectives to build capacity and improve skills, promote research collaboration between Egypt and the UK, as well as transfer innovation, knowledge and expertise.

We would like to share three inspiring stories of Egyptian researchers who participated in the Researcher Connect programme.

Developing the teaching skills of lecturers in Egyptian universities

Building the capacity of faculty members at the Egyptian University of Suez in order to develop university education is the aim of Rehab Al-Maghrabi, Head of the Department of Petroleum Refining and Petrochemical Engineering at the Faculty of Mining and Petroleum Engineering at Suez University. This requires the development of the teaching skills and personal abilities of professors and lecturers, and their exposure to various international educational experiences. Al-Maghrabi found all that she needed in the Research Connect communication skills programme.

With the support of the British Council, Rehab was able to organise a workshop in 2015 for faculty members to develop their science communication skills. During the workshop, outstanding trainers from the UK shared their expertise with their Egyptian peers.

'The training workshop included 16 young faculty members. They came together to discuss ways to develop methods of explaining science and presenting scientific content, in addition to gaining more experiences related to the mechanism of scientific thinking. The exchange of experience - between British trainers and Egyptian participants - has undoubtedly benefited all participants,' Rehab explained.

'During the workshop, we left the monotonous academic life behind and enjoyed the diverse and useful activities. We explored various educational tools that we have not been exposed to before. Many participants have already invested these experiences in their university lectures, enabling students to learn in better ways,' Rehab added.

Rehab got this training workshop accredited by Suez University. It has thus been recognized as part of the Professional Development Programme for Researchers. Consequently, the participants in the training programme were able to progress in their academic path at the university and got promoted to higher teaching and scientific research positions.

Rehab confirmed the extended impact of this training programme, saying: 'You can realise the full value of this workshop when you know that after eight years, most of the participants have become professors, heads of departments, and deans of several Egyptian universities.'

Sharing experiences to meet the challenges of university education

University education in Egypt - and the rest of the world - faces many challenges. Addressing these challenges in order to build the capacity of a new generation of Egyptian male and female researchers who can develop scientific research and higher education is what prompted Noha Al-Rafie, Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Forensic Medicine and Poisons at the Faculty of Medicine, Ain Shams University, to organise a training workshop through the Researcher Connect programme.

The training workshop provided by the programme included all what Al-Rafie was looking for.

'Educational institutions around the world face the same problems and challenges that negatively affect the academic path of students and researchers. By collaborating with a multidisciplinary and culturally diversified team, I realised that we are not alone.  Egypt is not the only country suffering from such problems; there are also various educational and research institutions around the world facing the same challenges. Through cooperation and exchange of experiences we can overcome all this,' Noha pointed out.

As male and female researchers with common interests worked in one team during the workshop, they were able to acquire many of the skills required to develop their research and teaching careers. The training modules included academic writing, making interactive scientific presentations, and writing successful proposals. All of these skills will equip the researchers with the qualifications and expertise needed to meet the challenges of higher education and scientific research in Egypt.

Noha explains that the Researcher Connect programme has contributed to building a wide community of academics, who face similar challenges in university education and scientific research. Through the workshops of the programme, the various linguistic and cultural barriers between the participants were dissolved. Moreover, they received support to jointly search for effective and viable solutions for their problmes. This benefits the entire scientific community.

'International cooperation between different scientific bodies limits individual efforts and always contributes to better results,' Noha confirmed.

Conclusion of the training workshop organised through the Researcher Connect Communication Skills Programme by Noha Al Rafie, Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Forensic Medicine and Poisons at the Faculty of Medicine, Ain Shams University
Salma Al-Marassi organised a workshop on science communication at the National Research Centre in Egypt through the Researcher Connect programme

Gaining leadership skills for academic professional development

'Attending the British Council's training workshop in Egypt, held at the National Research Centre in 2014, was the main reason why I wanted to organise it again after obtaining my PhD,'  Salma Al-Marassi, Assistant Professor of Pharmacology at the Institute of Clinical and Medical Trials of the Egyptian National Research Centre, commenting on her participation in the Researcher Connect communication skills programme more than once.

Salma indicates that they have benefited so much from the training workshop held in 2014. A group of training experts from the UK taught her how to improve the skills needed to develop her academic career, including effective communication skills, writing outstanding proposals, making attractive scientific presentations, and communicating with researchers from different cultures.

This prompted Salma to participate in the organization of this workshop again, this time as the coordinator of the training project. 

'In 2018, I submitted a request to organize a workshop at the National Research Centre through funding from the British Council's Newton-Mosharafa Fund to develop the capacity of peer researchers, especially in the field of science communication,' she explained.

Although Salma had attended the workshop as a participant before, she found that its content has been updated to keep pace with academic developments. In addition, she has acquired many management and leadership skills by coordinating and organizing the workshop and building bridges of cooperation between researchers in the UK and Egypt.

The outcomes of participating in Researcher Connect did not stop at this for Salma. She explains that her subsequent success as a principal investigator in a project of the National Research Centre was achieved as a result of acquiring the skills and experience that helped her to communicate effectively and successfully with researchers from various research centres and universities. 'I have learned how to successfully obtain research grants, which has helped me to join various international programmes.'