Developing postdoctoral expertise in vector control research within sub-Saharan African research institutions: The experience of the ‘Partnership for Increasing the Impact of Vector Control (PIIVeC)’ consortium

Amegee Quach J., Pulford J., Bates I

Background: Maintaining a critical mass of highly skilled researchers is essential to further research capacity in Sub-Saharan Africa. Supporting career and leadership development among vector control postdoctoral researchers is needed to generate local evidence, apply, and disseminate new knowledge to address vectorborne diseases (VBDs). Vector control plays a pivotal role in breaking disease transmission and reaching global elimination targets. Yet, current technologies and approaches need adaptation to thwart the insecticide resistance threat in the region, holding the highest burden of VBDs worldwide. In this context, the PIIVeC programme supported and nurtured a cohort of 10 Research Career Development Fellows (RCDFs) in Malawi, Burkina Faso, and Cameroon, to generate reliable evidence for vector control decision-making. This study examines how PIIVeC strengthened RCDFs’ expertise in vector control and explored what factors played a role in their career development.

Methods: This is a qualitative longitudinal study. A total of 28 individuals involved in the programme were interviewed, of which 10 RCDFs interviewed multiple times from 2018-2021. Data were collected through semistructured interviews, focus group discussions and from project documentation at key stages of the programme. Data were analysed using a content analysis approach.

Results: Views/perspectives were collected from 10 RCDFs multiple times, 5 primary advisors based in their home institutions, 6 UK-based secondary advisors, 4 support team members, 3 project management team members. Factors influencing RCDFs’ research capacity include a structured mentoring framework, diversity of support offered, accessibility and engagement into networks, and inclusiveness. Individual attributes and past experiences also played a role in RCDFs’ performance.

Conclusion: PIIVeC demonstrated substantial enhancement of the knowledge and skills required to generate quality research evidence. Success of the next generation of researchers in vector control will be shaped by research programme attributes, individual trajectories and significant and sustained investment from local research institutions and national stakeholders.