From 23 until 30 November 2016, ESE:O was at the School of Public Health at Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa, participating in a multidisciplinary training session for 25 grantees of the Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa (CARTA).
Known as a “Joint Advanced Seminar (JAS 2), this was a milestone event for the CARTA fellows, who had just completed a seven-month on-line writing course with ESE:O during 2016. They were able to train intensively with supervisors, colleagues, and visiting instructors as guests of the University for a month. Soledad Falabella and Sebastian Brett held four scientific writing workshops with the fellows, as well as other activities with their academic supervisors.
CARTA is a consortium of nine African universities and four African research centers, working in the fields of population, and public health. Since 2011, it has trained upwards of 120 African doctoral candidates working on some of the most challenging public health issues of the day. Thirty have now graduated with their PhDs. At the last count, scholars from the program had clocked up 400 articles in peer-reviewed publications.
“English-language students in the US, the UK, Australia, and Canada have easy access to academic writing courses as part of their university experience. But most Africans living in Anglophone countries do not,” said Soledad. “Some are already excellent writers, but compared with Northern colleagues, they face a big handicap in meeting the standards required by top international journals.”
ESE: O has worked with CARTA since its beginnings. Its main role is to organize and run a seven-month workshop (part face-to-face, part online) on writing a scientific literature review—in which fellows aim to provide an “intellectual frame” for their research idea— during the first year of their fellowship. The online part is conducted in English on a “virtual campus,” in which students can access one another’s work, read feedback from instructors, consult articles and tips, and participate in a forum to discuss writing issues.
The November JAS (JAS2), which concluded the 2016 online workshop, gave the fellows a chance to discuss problems that troubled them; question their instructors, and brainstorm advanced writing issues. This year, the focus was on conceptual frameworks, mind maps, and writing coherent and convincing paragraphs.