Web-Series for Capacity Building of Early-Career Researchers in Nepal

-Mallika Chaulagain

Uptake/Communication Officer, TPO Nepal

Networking and supportive interactions can improve our professional lives. Conferences and social media, among others, are vibrant spaces for professional collaboration and discussions. In academia too, networking is critical to form sustainable ties with fellow researchers. Networking is even more crucial for early-career researchers, as they usually face challenges when they begin their journey. Research has shown that capacity-building activities are valuable to improve the research capacity of early-career researchers. However, very few opportunities are available in Nepal to support early-career researchers in network building, publication, and career growth. This dearth of opportunity is even more pronounced for women in Nepal. While women’s representation in health research and leadership is low globally, unique cultural and social limitations in Nepal pose even greater threats to the professional development of female researchers.

To address this gap, TPO Nepal, in partnership with George Washington University, is organizing a series of network-building activities. These activities will be conducted as a part of the RESHAPE project. The project aims to build research capacity among early career researchers to collaborate with people with lived experiences of mental health. Additionally, it plans to expand gender-equitable research networks.

“During a qualitative study* conducted in 2018, we found out that there were many structural barriers for women researchers in Nepal as well as limited opportunities for networking and mentorship. We felt a need for space where early-career researchers can be supported, with a focus on gender equity. Tailored networking and mentorship opportunities were suggested by the study participants to fulfill this gap. This is why we created Nepal Mental Health Research Series (NMHRS)”, says Dristy Gurung, Sr. Project Coordinator of RESHAPE.

As an activity of the NMHRS, a series of webinars is being conducted – with one webinar every month starting July 2021. Every webinar will be an attempt to explore a different topic on mental and behavioral health research. It is open to the general public, and anyone who registers can participate.

*This study is currently being peer-reviewed for publication in a scientific journal.

Speakers in the webinar series will include researchers, advocates, policymakers, and others from leading organizations focusing on mental health in Nepal. In addition to knowledge sharing and capacity building, the webinar will serve as a virtual space for fellow researchers in Nepal and abroad who are currently conducting mental and behavioral health research in Nepal or are interested in conducting such research. Participants of the webinar are encouraged to reach out to fellow researchers and speakers following the webinars. It could help them strengthen connections as well as get career advice and support. The topics in these webinars will be of a broad range, from research capacity building to innovative techniques in research.

The first webinar of this series was hosted virtually from 6 to 7 p.m. Nepal time on July 21, 2021. Dr. Brandon Kohrt from George Washington University, Dr. Mita Rana from Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH), Dr. Kedar Marahatta from World Health Organization (WHO), and Susmeera Aryal from Women’s Group for Disability Rights (WGDR) were the speakers for the event. The next webinar will be organized in August. Interested participants can get updates on the events through NMHRS official social media pages (Facebook, Twitter).

At the end of the webinars, it is expected that participants will learn more about a topic related to mental or behavioral health while also being introduced to fellow researchers who share their interests. In addition, it is expected that early career researchers in Nepal will have an enhanced understanding of engaging, designing, and participating in an inclusive research project.  “In the end, we will conduct studies to see the changes in collaboration, networking, and mentorship among researchers over the years,” says Ms. Gurung.

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