Research and Technology Transfer at AAU

Taking into account the reform in the University, coupled with the responsibility entrusted to the institution by the Government, AAU has recently welcomed a new vision of becoming a pre-eminent research university in Africa. As a result, research has been given a new organizational platform under a new direction and new set of policy framework. The change at AAU underscores that research should proactively respond to the national demand of generating and disseminating new knowledge and technology, strengthening and developing the capacity of students in contemporary science and technology. The new research policy stipulates research shall be conducted in the most cost-effective and responsive manner, and be interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary in its scope, and thematic in its approach.

AAU has gone through a series of changes, reorganizations and transformations cognizant of the current demands to keep abreast of the changes and strategic directions imposed by internal and external conditions in order to ensure its relevance and effectiveness in executing its strategic functions. The services it has been rendering in the training of high level skilled manpower and professionals in various key areas of development and the research outputs are unprecedented. Until recently, AAU has been the only source of highly qualified professionals and it was engaged in an integrated basic and applied scientific research in broad academic areas.

Among the series of structural changes aimed at improving its institutional and operational qualities so as to enable it to live up to its name and standard, the one that took place very recently after a prolonged Business Process Reengineering (BPR) is by far the most profound. The inputs, outputs, performance gaps, desired outcomes and stretched objectives of the reengineering process are outlined in a separate Research Booklet available at the Office for Research and Technology Transfer. Among the many changes brought about as a result of this reorganization and transformation plan was the upgrading of the research office to the level of vice president and the inclusion of technology transfer as an important wing of the office. These changes are anticipated to offer efficient and enabling situations for the University to enhance its transformational agenda in line with its vision, missions, and goals.

Strategic objectives to guide research and technology transfer at AAU

  • Create an enabling, harmonious, transparent and efficient environment for the      development of competitive research projects, execution of research and transfer of innovations and technologies;
  • Strengthen research management and     coordination by guiding the development and execution of research in an organized way as thematic research, small grants research, graduate and collaborative research;
  • Ensure the relevance of researches undertaken within AAU, making them relevant and akin to the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) of the country;
  • Enhance research and publications culture among junior staff and students;
  • Improve funding for research and generation of new technologies and innovations and disseminate research findings and effectively transfer new technologies;
  • Improve the gender responsiveness of the University through research, innovations and technology incubation.

Highlights of the Research and Technology Transfer Policy

The research policy (2010) of the University (now available in a separate booklet titled “Research Policy”) contains detailed information and itemized policy statements. The main headings included in the research policy booklet are summarized here:

Organization of research and technology transfer

The organizational aspect of the research and technology transfer wing of the University has been described in detail. The new AAU organizational structure is elaborated under the section that follows in this Research Manual. This section of the research policy particularly elaborates the organizational setup created to facilitate and support an effective and conducive structure to allow effective execution of research and technology transfer duties.

Principles of research and technology transfer

This deals with key issues in the generation and dissemination of knowledge and conducting scholarly inquiry. These represent the central and complementary functions of the University, which could be carried out effectively and efficiently only if faculty members are guaranteed academic freedom with the acceptance of corresponding responsibilities. The AAU Senate is committed to respecting and ensuring the main principles regarding faculty academic freedom in research and technology transfer. The AAU shall foster an environment conducive to research undertaking and generation of new technologies. In situations where the University system becomes unable to support a given research because of resource constraints, it shall allocate space, facilities, funds and other available resources to research programs based on the scholarly and educational merits of the proposed research, and not on speculations concerning the political or moral impropriety of the uses which might be made of its results.

Rights and responsibilities in the conduct of research

  • Individual faculty members should be free to choose the subject matter of their research, and to seek support from any source for their research project. They should also have the independence to formulate their own findings and conclusions. However, these findings and conclusions should be available for scrutiny and criticism as required by the AAU Policy on Research.
    •    Research techniques should not violate established professional ethics pertaining to the health, safety, privacy, and other personal rights of people in addition to respecting safeguarding against misconduct in research and due observation of IPR issues.

Management of research and its outputs

  • Based on the research priorities set at the national level, AAU shall set its share of institutional research priorities every five years. The Senate Research and Publications Committee (SRPC) shall approve the prioritized research plans or themes and pass them for final approval to the Senate through the VPRTT. These priorities should, as much as possible, identify research programs, rather than specific research projects. Colleges and institutes shall set up their research priorities based on the Senate-approved University research priorities. The college/institute research and technology transfer committees, or any such relevant committees established for this purpose shall approve the respective research priorities. Academic units shall set their research priorities based on the college/institute research priorities. The academic unit’s research and publications committees shall approve these.
    •    In funding research, the Office of the VPRTT shall give priority to research programs and to multidisciplinary research falling within the institutional research priorities, as opposed to individual research projects.  Incidentally, it is worth realizing that some of the research priority areas of AAU include environment, health, water, transportation and communication, basic and applied research, social science, Information Communication Technology (ICT), tourism, agriculture and animal health.

Financial aspects of sponsored project administration

  • The principal investigator (PI) at AAU holds the overall responsibility for the technical and financial management of a sponsored project. This includes the management of the project within funding limitations, adherence to the project protocol agreed upon, timely reporting of requirements and notifying sponsors when significant conditions related to project status change. While responsibility for the day-to-day management of project fund may be delegated to administrative or other staff, accountability for compliance with AAU policy and sponsor requirements ultimately rests with the PI. AAU requires all PIs to review their obligations for stewardship of sponsored funds and compliance with applicable regulations.

Conflicts of commitment and interest

  • Faculty, employed on a full-time basis at AAU, owe their primary professional allegiance to the same, and their primary commitment of time and intellectual energies should be to the programs in which they are working. Whenever an individual’s engagement outside the University interferes with professional obligations for which he or she is employed at AAU, a conflict of commitment surfaces.
    •    Conflicts of interest are common and practically unavoidable in a modern research university. Faculty should conduct their affairs in a way that avoids or minimizes such conflicts of interest, and must respond appropriately when conflicts of interest arise.

Handling of Intellectual Property Issues

  • AAU shall provide for a supportive and creative environment in which faculty and students can work together in the discovery, accumulation and dissemination of knowledge. In doing this, it shall respect the rights of its faculty and students and establish a framework that will encourage and support the development of IP created through such activities. It shall also distribute any resultant income in a manner which encourages creativity, and further develop the research, teaching and learning business of the University. AAU takes reasonable steps to respect the right of an inventor to be acknowledged as the creator of copyright and to make sure that others respect that right, unless the inventor wishes not to be acknowledged. All potentially patentable inventions conceived by members of the academia (including student employees) of AAU, in the course of their University responsibilities in a sponsored project, shall be disclosed on a regular basis to the Office of the VPRTT; AAU shall share royalties from inventions so assigned to it by the relevant policy statement.

Other issues

  • Other policy issues discussed in the policy framework include non-faculty research appointments, approval of visiting scholar/researcher applications, exemptions and regulations on teaching materials and the commissioning of textbooks.

More detailed principles, statements and legal issues on the research and technology transfer policy of the AAU can be obtained in the AAU research policy available in a booklet.