NACOSTI held a virtual workshop on the 23rd July 2020 aimed at providing a platform for key stakeholders to give their input on the Researchers, IERCs, and Research Institution System (RIRS) and sensitize ST&I Stakeholders of the development of RIRS. The workshop brought together over one hundred and three (103) participants drawn from a wide range of key stakeholders consisting of representatives from Registered Research Institutions, both private and public universities, Government agencies/parastatals, Institutional Ethics Review Committees (IERC), National Bioethics Committee (NBC) members and NACOSTI staff. NACOSTI in collaboration with KEMRI, Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) were awarded a competitive grant by the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) in 2018 with the aim of strengthening compliance in Research Regulation in Kenya. Part of this grant was meant for supporting the development of a Research Institution, Researchers and IERC System (RIRS).

Prof. Walter Oyawa- Director General, NACOSTI, officially opened the workshop and welcomed the participants on behalf of NACOSTI fraternity. He applauded the huge number of participants and appreciated the passion from institutions on matters related to research. He mentioned that NACOSTI has 17 functions which can be contracted to promotion, regulation, advising and coordination of Science, Technology and Innovation. He appreciated the team for organizing the workshop since the COVID regime is forcing digitization of systems and processes. He noted that NACOSTI is focusing on operationalization of the National Research Priority document by creating a research consortium focusing on big 4 agenda plus research, finalization of ST&I policy, development of ST&I road map which links SDG and big 4 agenda and creation of ST&I network which will bring together interested research experts from different fields. Kenya performed well in global innovation index particularly in patenting and hence encouraged universities and research institutions to finalize intellectual property policies. He also talked on the importance of having a research license from NACOSTI and wished the participants productive exchange of ideas encouraging them to engage in active and open discussions.

Dr. Stephen Karimi- Director Research, Accreditation and Quality Assurance, NACOSTI, welcomed and thanked the stakeholders present for the workshop. He mentioned that the importance of the RIRS system is to avoid duplication of research and enable institutions share research equipment. The system’s efficiency will ease access of services offered by NACOSTI by improving transparency since the system will counter plagiarism. It will also improve knowledge management since information will be gathered from universities, hospitals and Research institutions and that having the system running is progress of achieving a one stop shop for researchers. NACOSTI will organize a workshop that will bring together all the CEOs of research regulators and have all systems integrated to improve the research ecosystem in Kenya.   

Prof. Elizabeth Bukusi- Chief Research Officer KEMRI, noted that the system being developed will help researchers do their work in an accountable and safe manner. She mentioned that the system is being supported by European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) which focusses on systems for research regulations. She applauded NACOSTI for the progress so far in implementing the system and hoped regulation of research and research compliance will be adhered to by researchers and that it was a pleasure to work with former Director General NACOSTI, Dr. Moses Rugutt, who helped them build the foundation of the system.

Mr. Boniface Wanyama, Chief Analyst NACOSTI, gave a presentation of the mandate of NACOSTI and about RIRS. The presentation highlighted the research regulatory framework, quality assurance of research, highlights of registration of research institutions, highlights of legal notice no. 106, development of RIRS and its capabilities, expectations, and a way forward. 

The participants were also taken through the process of signing up for an account, logging in, registering a researcher, applying for registration of research institutions, applying for accreditation of  Institutional Ethics Review Committees and submission of annual reports by research institutions and IERCs  by Isaya Opondo, RIRS consultant.  The presentation was followed by a plenary discussion. Most of the participants applauded NACOSTI for the good initiative of developing the RIRS and that they were happy to be associated with this initiative and were looking forward to the end product. 

The session was interactive with a couple of questions being raised and the responses given. Some of the responses given were: the institutions that have already been registered need not to go through the system again but to update and maintain the data in the system and submit annual reports; registration of researchers is free; all researchers in the country will be expected to register in the system (whether in a registered research institution or in a university), all research in animal science, social sciences, environmental science, public health, biomedical science, biological science need IERC clearance; the Model Institutional Intellectual Property Management policy was shared with the research institutions and universities for their comments and the template is to be finalized soon (further info ); individual researchers/consultants do apply for Research Licenses; non-Kenyans must be affiliated to a local relevant institution; RIMS is a system for applying for research license while RIRS is a system for Registering Researchers, Research institutions and IERCs therefore the two are different; the granted Research License is sent to one’s NACOSTI account and email; audited financial statements is a requirement for an institution applying for registration as a research institution (It doesn’t apply to universities); affiliation should be to one institution (for accountability) and all researchers in the country will have to register with NACOSTI. They appreciated the stakeholders for their input.

The system was set to go live on 3rd August 2020. The way forward adopted was participants can test the system before it goes live and send their inputs and comments to NACOSTI; when the system is ready, NACOSTI shall communicate to the public through the commission’s website and letters to the head of institutions to alert the researchers to apply; all registered research institutions and accredited IERCs will be expected to provide details of a technical person who will be given rights to access the system; the system will be improved as we go along, and the interaction of researchers and institution with the system will help do so and NACOSTI will prepare a manual of the system that will ease the use of the system and will be used to sensitize staff in the institutions.