February 11, 2021
OWSD Nigeria National Chapter University of Port Harcourt Branch series of scientific communications: Temitope O. Sogbanmu on TIME AND RESOURCES OPTIMIZATION FOR CAREER ADVANCEMENT BY WOMEN
TIME AND RESOURCES OPTIMIZATION FOR CAREER ADVANCEMENT BY WOMEN SCIENTISTS FROM RESOURCE-POOR SETTINGS
Temitope O. Sogbanmu, PhD
Time is a precious commodity which is universal in its span for each individual globally. A individual has 24 h each day to utilize as he or she wills. However, how this time is utilized by various persons yield various outcomes. As academics and Scientists, the use of time for various activities majorly research and teaching depend on the individual scientist. Women Scientists in particular face the dilemma of utilizing time productively to advance their research and invariably careers while managing the peculiarities of being a female or woman in Science. Career Advancement is measured by various metrics. In academics and sciences, metrics such as research outputs (publications, patents, products), grants, fellowships, awards, teaching load, number of supervised students, administrative duties among others are utilized to determine tenure and promotion. In resource-poor settings (that is, areas, countries, environments that lack or have little infrastructure, facilities or enabling environment to support maximum productivity), career advancement is a challenge especially if adjudged at par with global benchmarks. For Women scientists and academics from these resource-poor settings, career advancement and ultimately global impact is often a mirage or an achievement by a few women. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) are several, corresponding targets and indicators which addresses gender issues and mainstreaming for sustainability. A strong need in achieving these goals and targets is for capacity building on time and resource optimization particularly for women in sciences from resource-poor settings. Optimization, a term often applied in technology or businesses is concerned with the use of a resource, method or process in order to derive the maximum benefit possible within the ambits of the resource capacity. With regards to career advancement for women in science, time and resource optimization hence refers to the maximization of the period and available facilities, structures within one’s environment in order to achieve the highest productivity possible. In this chapter or presentation, I posit some personal time and experience-tested ways to optimize time and available resources as a Woman in Science from a resource-poor setting (public university in a developing African country, Nigeria).
Peculiarities of Women Scientists in Resource-Poor Settings
- There are usually few women scientists at the top level/professorial/management positions in tertiary institutions, government agencies and industries in resource-poor settings. Where they are found, they are often older in age experience compared to their male colleagues or counterparts in ‘resource-rich settings’.
- Women Scientists are usually NOT Principal Investigators or Research Groups Leaders.
- Gender stereotypes of women such as housewife(ves), extended family responsibilities, ‘culture’ which often require women to be ‘back benchers’ or not overly ambitious, are some of the stereotypes that may be peculiar to Women Scientists
- Inability to undertake research collaborations, fellowships, visits, sabbaticals ‘abroad’ or outside of their localities. This may be due to poor research(er) visibility, lack of exposure, resource burden, lack of or poor mentorship, lack of access to or information about opportunities, among others
- Lack of or low negotiation skills/influence over available (limited) resources at institutions in resource-poor settings
- They successfully few postgraduate (particularly PhD Students)
Tips on Time Optimization
- Optimize time management applications such as Microsoft Sticky Notes (Figure 1)
- Set Annual/Half-Year/Quarterly/Weekly goals and plan of activities (Figure 2)
- Utilize and optimize the time and calendar on your laptop, desktop, mobile phone or IPAD to set daily reminders
Figure 1: Sample Personalized Sticky Notes
Source: Microsoft Sticky Notes; Temitope O. Sogbanmu, 2021
Figure 2: Sample Personalized Annual/Half-Year/Quarterly Goals and Targets
Source: Temitope O. Sogbanmu, 2021
Tips on Resource Optimization
- Save a portion of your salary (for example, 10-20%) for conference(s) attendance, capacity development/training courses, laptop purchase, small field/lab equipment purchase, among others.
- Identify and utilize free resources particularly online to increase your research(er) visibility and collaborative opportunities – personal website/blog builder (for example, wordpress – see https://tosogbanmu.wordpress.com/), research profile pages (Scopus, Google Scholar, ResearchGate, and so on)
- Identify and work with Collaborators with facilities both within and outside your university or country. This is possibility having done the above and actively utilizing and engaging the networks available through these platforms especially ResearchGate
- Develop innovative research that can be conducted with available resources.
Managing Your Career Advancement
- Join and actively participate in activities of national (for example, National Young Academies (NYA)), regional (The African Academy of Sciences (The AAS), Next Einstein Forum (NEF), African Science Leadership Programme (ASLP), among others), international (Organization for Women in Science in the Developing World (OWSD), Global Young Academy (GYA), The World Academy of Science (TWAS), and so on) networks of top-level scientists/researchers and utilize it.
- Vitae Researcher Development Framework (RDF) (Figure 4): This is a tool that can help to steer and support the career advancement plans of researchers including Women in Science. A simple personalized RDF is shown in Figure 5 that may be adapted to develop personal career advancement goals and associated activities.
- Familiarize yourself with the conditions of service at your institution. Do not miss a promotion/annual increment. Prepare for and maximize the opportunities available therein:
Annual Leave (if you are unable to use it, bank it!)
Short-Term and Long-Term Leaves
Figure 3: Vitae Researcher Development Framework
Figure 4: Sample Personalized Researcher Development Framework
Source: Temitope O. Sogbanmu, 2021
Aiming for Global Impact and Relevance in Science
- ‘Town and Gown’ interaction – translational research: it is important particularly for researchers in resource-poor settings to engage various publics who their research has potential impact on for collaboration, funding, research uptake and ultimately impact.
- Demand-driven research: industry/policy priorities relevant to one’s research within the locality, state, or country should be addressed in research agenda of scientists. This will support uptake and relevance of the research outputs. One prime example is the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGS) with attendant targets and indicators. Women in Science especially from resource-poor settings should identify which of these goals and targets align with their research expertise or vice versa and develop projects to feed into the indicators, hence, global relevance. Similarly, the African Union Agenda 2063 Goals are another ‘checklist’ of research demands which Women Scientists can leverage on to align their research priorities and seek funds and/or collaborations. A sample personalized UNSDGs and AU Agenda 2063 Goals align with researcher priorities is shown in Figure 5 below.
- Capacity-building: continuous and periodic participation in trainings, short courses, seminars, webinars some of which are free and accessible online is imperative to keep abreast with latest developments and techniques in one’s research field.
- Identifying mentors and being a mentor: seeking person(s) to be mentored by, either female or male who is experienced not necessarily in age but who has the skills and achievements that one desires in the medium to long term is important. Similarly, being a mentor to others such as peers, younger colleagues even older colleagues are key. Endeavour to be open, willing to learn and willing to be of help as much as within your ability, time and expertise. Mentorship can also be indirect or from afar.
- Project yourself to the world (Research(er) visibility): this has been detailed in the previous section. It is highly important as Women Scientists particularly from resource-poor settings who are aiming for global impact
- Expand your network and collaborations
- Be bold and aim for top positions both locally, regionally and internally.
Figure 5: Sample Personalized Research Priority Plan/Agenda based on Relevant Sustainable Development Goals and African Union Agenda 2063 Goals
Source: Temitope O. Sogbanmu, 2021
We can be all we want to be and achieve if we believe in ourselves, have faith and work wisely. It is up to you to optimize your time and resources for impact as a Woman in Science.
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Environmental Evidence Synthesis and Knowledge Translation (EESKT) Research Cluster, TETFund Centre of Excellence on Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Management (TCEBCEM), University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos, Nigeria