Staff learn about writing for publication

Professor Nokuthula Sibiya, fourth from left, with researchers and staff at the workshop

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagement (RIE), Professor Nokuthula Sibiya continues to forge ahead with her portfolio’s research plan. From 18-20 October 2023 Professor Sibiya hosted a three-day writing for publication workshop off campus to empowers researchers. Professor Sibiya said the workshop was “to motivate and increase the research productivity, and also build capacity among the staff members”. Other objectives of the meeting were to provide academic, scientific, technical and disciplinary support for the academic writing process; demystify writing for publications and cultivate and promote a culture of research innovation and academic productivity; motivate staff to fully embrace academic publications outputs as a key performance indicator and to promote staff productivity in this area; and demonstrate the importance and relationship between scientific research and publications and the disciplinary teaching of these subjects i.e., promote evidence-based teaching.

Twenty-one staff members from the three faculties attended the workshop. Professor Sibiya said that each participant was required to prepare at least one draft manuscript, and to identify other potential manuscripts for discussion at the workshop and then finalisation at subsequent presentations. Professor Sibiya set a specific output.

The workshop consisted of four elements – a series of formal lectures and presentations by a facilitator on academic writing. This was followed by plenary discussions to assess the level of academic writing among the participants. The last two phases were group discussions around set topics to internalise and enhance the skills, knowledge and competencies, and individual consultations with each participant to review their draft manuscript’s as it evolved over the three days.

The workshop yielded positive results that auger well for the University’s research. Professor Sibiya said the staff’s attitude towards research shifted; now staff believe in their ability to do research, and that they now regard research as one of their academic responsibilities. The participants were also grateful to the opportunity to learn about some finer details of research. Professor Sibiya said “The majority of the participants said that this workshop allowed them time off from their busy schedules to focus exclusively on the publication writing, reflection on acquiring the skills, and most importantly the confidence that it is possible to produce journal articles.”

Professor Sibiya said that the participants also shared their frustrations, fears, and apprehensions about academic writing, and appreciated that the workshop topics covered issues such as building a collegial atmosphere and setting aside time for writing. Staff also committed to submitting at least one publication during the first half of the year; some said they would submit two to four publications. Several staff members said they would submit their papers before the end December. Some even spelt out the date – 10 December, and 15 December 2023. Dr Devashan Naidoo of the Department of Nature Conservation said he would be submitting his manuscript by mid-November 2023, following the completion of revisions that were suggested by the review board of the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, while Matthews Shange of the Department of Marketing, said the first paper from his Master’s dissertation had been accepted and the publishers deferred the publication to November 2023. “An abstract submission is in progress and will be submitted next week for the CHE Conference. The paper is slated for presentation at the conference scheduled for February/March 2024. I gained valuable insights and knowledge during the workshop, which has been truly encouraging and motivating. These experiences have further fuelled the drive to produce more meaningful research contributions,” said Shange.

Professor Sibiya also made a commitment: “I will host and facilitate at MUT, monthly, three-to-four-hour follow-up sessions with the workshop participants to provide further support and guidance as well as to monitor progress with finalisation and submission of manuscripts to DHET accredited journals. Celebratory events will be held for accepted/published articles.”