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AWARD Welcomes John Innes Centre Scientist for Impact Study

Dr. Jody Lilley of JIC shares her experience conducting the advanced science training impact study at AWARD.

I am a postdoctoral scientist and international development coordinator focusing on people partnerships at the John Innes Centre (JIC).  The first time I read the 2015 ‘Empowering African Women Scientists’ publication describing AWARD’s work was a significant moment. The program’s vision resonated so deeply with my principles and passion that I knew at once I wanted to learn all I could from the program’s inspiring staff and fellows.

My first major opportunity to work with AWARD came in 2016 when the JIC became AWARD’s first UK partner. I have been privileged to help welcome three fellows for their advanced science training (AST) attachments.

My dream of working with AWARD in Africa came true earlier this year when the JIC funded my six-week attachment at AWARD as part of their BBSRC Impact Acceleration Account portfolio. My objectives included working closely with the AWARD Monitoring & Evaluation and AST teams to understand the impacts and challenges of the fellowship’s AST component. The attachment provided an opportunity for the JIC to learn how to maximise its impact as an AST host and gain a deeper understanding of the challenges facing women agricultural scientists in Africa.

The AST impact study encompassed dozens of in-country, face-to-face interviews with post-AST fellows and the development of an online survey. I travelled with AWARD staff to Ghana, Malawi and Uganda and conducted interviews at two locations in the Nairobi area. The stories from the fellows are inspirational and informative. So many, including the AST host institutions, stand to benefit from the fellows’ advice and experiences. Some emerging trends are already clear from the study. For example, the ASTs have accelerated career progression for many scientists, helping them publish more papers in higher impact journals. AST experiences have also translated into increased research and training capacity at fellows’ home institutions through grants with hosting partners. For many fellows, the increased focus and confidence resulting from AST yields holistic personal growth. 

We look forward to sharing the full results of the study later in the year. I thank AWARD for the warm and welcoming spirit that made this extraordinary experience as transformative for me as the ASTs themselves are for so many AWARD Fellows.