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2020 Early Career Fellows convene for first online orientation workshop

November 15, 2020

screenshot of group photo of all participantsThe orientation workshop for OWSD Early Career Fellows - one of two workshops the Fellows take part in over the course of their two-year fellowships - looked a little different this year, as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic prevented travel to OWSD's offices in Trieste, Italy where the orientation has previously been held. Instead, OWSD Secretariat staff organized a virtual workshop over the course of five days, with a mix of live and recorded sessions to make sure the full agenda for the workshop could be covered, while avoiding "Zoom fatigue". 

The workshop convened from Monday, October 26 through Friday, October 30. All 23 scientists who were awarded the 2020 fellowship attended, from their homes in 15 countries across the developing world. Fourteen speakers and six OWSD Secretariat staff also participated. Live workshop sessions were held during what was the afternoon for most of the participants (in Africa and in Europe), while recorded sessions could be viewed on the Fellows' own time. 

The orientation workshop is intended to prepare Fellows for managing this and other research grants, supervising teams, communicating and commercializing their research, and other important aspects of navigating a career in science. It kicked off on Monday with introductions and a presentation on 'Building your career as a woman scientist' by Shobhana Narasimhan, Professor of Theoretical Sciences at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in Bangalore, India. Live sessions on the following days included a presentation on 'Including gender in research' by Elizabeth Pollitzer of Portia (UK), a presentation on intellectual property by Martina Viviani and Simona Russo of ICGEB in Trieste, a presentation on ensuring engagement of stakeholders outside academia by Arti Kashyap, Associate Professor at IIT Mandi (India), and a presentation on 'Communicating your research to others & leveraging online tools for work and professional advancement' by Joy Owango, Executive Director of the Training Centre in Communication (Kenya) and Karishma Kaushik, Assistant Professor/ Ramalingaswami Fellow at Savitribai Phule Pune University (India). Finally, on Friday October 30, the live sessions wrapped up with a panel discussion on 'How can we support each other as women scientists in the post-COVID world?', with 2018 Early Career Fellows Mashura Shammi and Lilian Kaale as well as three members of the OWSD Executive Board: President Jennifer Thomson; and Vice Presidents for Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean, respectively, Babalola Olubukola and Jana Rodriguez Hertz.

The recorded sessions produced by the OWSD Secretariat staff (also including presentations from TWAS Executive Director Romain Murenzi and 2018 Early Career Fellow Nimanthi Jayathilaka) also provided a rich depth of information on subjects ranging from how to use a monitoring and evaluation framework to track progress of a research project, to how to use social media strategically and professionally, to practical advice on procuring equipment and setting up a laboratory. 

Fellows also met with OWSD staff for individual consultations during the week on the financial management of their grants, helping them to prepare their budgets and procurement plans.

 Feedback from the workshop was enthusiastic, with most of the Fellows expressing that they felt inspired by the speakers and the other participants, in spite of not being able to meet in person.

"The speakers were very motivating and gave me energy to move forward," said Fellow H. A. C. K. Ariyarathna Hanchapola Appuhamilage, from Sri Lanka.

"My favorite part of the workshop was meeting new people, both the organizers and participants," said Anastasiah Ngigi from Kenya. "There was a lot of valuable information delivered in an easy manner. This was the start of an additional chapter in my career." 


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