Recently I attended a meeting at the Royal Society, London organized by CODATA (Committee for Data for Science and Technology). CODATA was created by the International Council for Science in 1966 with the mission to ‘improve the quality, reliability, management, accessibility and use of data’. CODATA’s greatest challenge is to support the scientific community in enhancing efficiency, rigor and creativity. As I sat in the room of 30+ experts representing various international organizations, it was quite clear that Africa was underrepresented. Indeed I was the only person from Africa in the meeting and I was there as a representative of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUEAS), where I co-chair the Committee on Documentation.
What emerged from the meeting is that we live in a period characterized by a move towards big data. While many of us work with small data, there is an increasing group of individuals and institutions that have made a transition either to ‘biggish’ data or those that have moved and are now working with big data. Big data is the next frontier of science; where theories shall come into being. Of course, big data presupposes that we have the capacity to cumulatively manage the knowledge we each generate.
Countries and regions are in competition to attract or develop successful knowledge-based business or industries. They are recognizing the importance of research and innovation in the difference spheres of socio-economic and technological development. Successful institutions that have realized that the control of data and making use of it to inform decisions is the next big thing are sparing no effort to invest in acquiring that data; But the quality data is only as a good as its weakest link.
Thus, universities including The Co-operative University of Kenya must invest in systems and processes that assure the quality of data generated. As such, The Co-operative University of Kenya is investing in training of its faculty members in an effort to prepare them to compete in an increasingly competitive research ecosystem where only the best of proposals are funded. Most recently, several young faculty with support of the Division of Co-operative Development, Research and Innovation went through a training on proposal writing organized by the Ministry of Education.
The Division of Co-operative Development, Research and Innovation (CDRI) plays an enabling role in The Co-operative University of Kenya’s vision—to be a leading University in Co-operative Training, Education, Research and Innovation. CDRI aims at creating an environment in which the spirit of innovation flourishes. It provides avenues for knowledge sharing through scholarly meetings, seminars and workshops.
The Division also plays a critical role coordinating community extension services, shows and exhibitions, Linkages and collaborations. So far, the Division has made milestones on the scheduled activities. Three policies, namely, Research Policy, Linkages Policy and Innovation Policy are at the final stages of review. Furthermore, progress has been made towards establishment of an Innovation Hub.
Research proposals have been prepared and funding decisions are currently being waited for in relation to several proposals that have been submitted for consideration. The Division is hopeful that these will move the research activities to a new level. Through this research, The Cooperative University of Kenya will move closer to realizing its vision to play a leadership role in co-operative training, education, research and innovation. With these initial steps, CUK will gradually move into big data, where the league leaders play.
Isaac K. Nyamongo, PhD
DVC (CDRI) & Professor of Anthropology