Strategic Training Achievements for Research Success (STARS): Increasing cancer research capacity in Africa

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Published: 21 Nov 2022
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Dr Timothy Rebbeck - Harvard University and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, United States

Dr Timothy Rebbeck speaks to ecancer about the strategic training achievements for research success (STARS) programme that aims to increase cancer research capacity in Africa.

He discusses some of the challenges to the advancement of research in Africa and how to overcome those challenges.

The STARS programme is advancing research capacity in Africa by providing a consistent training programme to young investigators on how to write grants, and papers and how to collaborate with other investigators to improve the quality of their research.

Dr Rebbeck highlights that such practical hands-on training is hard to come by and the STARS programme aims to deliver such training and other resources to improve the quality and the capacity of research in Africa.

The African cancer STARS programme is intended to provide mentorship and training in the principles and good practices of research to increase research rigour. We are doing this by training principal investigators, PIs, who will lead cancer research projects but we are also training project managers. Project managers are a critical component for doing any kind of activity, research training or clinical service, because they are the ones who really do a lot of the groundwork and they are required to make it all happen.

What are the challenges to increasing the research capacity in Africa?

There are many challenges to increasing research capacity and the workforce is among the most critical. Many people who would like to develop research careers don’t have research mentors, they don’t have the research resources to do the kind of work that they’d really like to develop. So the resources and the people do exist in Africa and elsewhere but it’s really important to bring them together to those people who are trying to build these careers. That’s what our programme is really intended to do is to bring together people with like interests and provide the mentorship that young scientists need.

How can cancer research capacity in Africa be increased?

By creating a consistent training programme that allows young investigators to understand how to write grants, how to write papers, how to work collaboratively with other investigators, that sort of practical hands-on training is something that is very hard to come by. Our particular programme, our STARS programme, is intended to create exactly those kinds of networks and those connections to improve cancer research capacity in junior investigators. By the same token we’re doing this kind of work with project managers who don’t always have a framework to work in to develop their work; they don’t have best practices or guidelines for project management. So by providing these networks we hope to be able to bring the standard of project management in research to a higher level.