The Regional Institute for Population Studies (RIPS) was established in 1972 jointly by the United Nations in partnership with the Government of Ghana, and is located at the University of Ghana. Since its establishment the Institute has served as a regional centre for teaching and research training at the post-graduate level of population scientists in English-speaking countries in Africa. The Institute enjoyed enormous funding from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), was the leading demographic research and teaching centre has trained more than 600 population scientists since its inception in 1972. However in 1999, the UNFPA withdrew its funding to RIPS which led to a decline in the activities of the Institute.

When Prof. Francis Dodoo was appointed the Director at RIPS in 2004, he inherited an institute that had its survival dependent on the provision of a teaching/training service rather than on a mission that is centered on a funded research training agenda. However, during his tenure, he transformed the Institute to one with an internationally recognized doctoral training programme of the highest repute, and the programme has at its core an extramurally-funded research mission that supports the various aspects of RIPS’ work.

My vision as Director is to provide academic leadership in both teaching and research at the institute and for RIPS is to continue to grow and maintain its international recognition as a leading centre for excellence in research and training in the areas of population, health, and population-environment interrelationships. This is tied to the Institute’s strategic plan which is centered on four key words: Improve RIPS’ current circumstances, Expand and Propagate the best aspects of the institute’s portfolio, but most importantly, Sustain the momentum generated at RIPS.


IMPROVEMENT
My vision is to improve on what has been achieved within the last six years. I am of the conviction that I am capable of doing this because I have been a key part of the success story at RIPS over the period.  Below is a brief statement of what has been achieved so far at RIPS, my contributions to what has been achieved, and my vision for improving the current situation.

ATTRACTING ADDITIONAL RESEARCH GRANTS
Within the period 2005-2011, RIPS attracted research grants of about US$ 5.6 million from diverse funding sources such as the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), European Union (EU), Global Development Network (GDN), National Institute of Health (NIH), Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), Appuis Integris pour le Renforcement des Equips Scientifiques du Sud (AIRES-SUD), International Development Research Centre (IDRC), etc. I was personally responsible for bringing in about US$ 2.3 million (US$ 15,000 from CODESRIA; US$394,204 from USAID; US$ 69,778 from UNITAR; US$ 58,500 from AIRES-SUD; US$ 307,090 from IDRC I, and US$ 1,419,362 from IDRC II). Furthermore, I collaborated with my colleagues at RIPS to attract US$ 482,612 from the EU.

These funds have been instrumental in supporting infrastructural development including computing and library resources, providing seed grants for research, international conference travel for students and staff, and above all providing scholarships for Masters and Doctoral training as well as staff development. A close look at the funding sources shows a change from RIPS’ traditional UNFPA funding in the past, to a more diversified set of donors in recent times. Prominent key funders include the IDRC of Canada, USAID, NIH and UNITAR. These funders have been attracted to RIPS not only because of the quality of its work, but also because of its position as arguably the leading population and environment program on the continent; our position as the regional leader in research in climate change and social science interrelations has been mentioned more than occasionally. I have been the Principal Investigator (PI) on the major climate change projects, and my grants have and are providing scholarships for 6 PhD and 12 M. Phil students. My vision is to extend the potential funding base by including organizations such as Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), Department for International  Development (DFID), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), etc., who also fund work in the population-environment nexus, and specifically climate change based research, as well as other funders interested in health research particularly Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (CNCD).


Strengthening PhD Training – Introduction of Course Work and Practical Training

RIPS has moved from the past where it focused heavily on M. A. training to a stage where PhD training has become more prominent. This has mainly been achieved through an excellent collaboration with Penn State University (PSU) – which has a sandwich programme in which RIPS students spend one year. The year in residence at PSU facilitates student professional development and our students come back with a sounder knowledge of dissertation proposal writing, exposure to top library facilities, frequent experience of research seminar series’, and the opportunity to receive mentoring from leading external researchers, many of whom will remain in the students’ intellectual networks, long after their PhDs.

As Principal Investigator of the African Adaptation Research Centre (AARC) project, I signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Director of the Carolina Population Center (CPC) at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), for a similar collaboration. The UNC-CH collaboration provides more opportunities for students, as the RIPS’ PhD cohorts increase, and particularly for those who work in the area of population-environment relationships. Other potential collaborators include the University of Amsterdam, New York University and Aalborg University, Denmark.

Furthermore, I strongly believe that PhD students should undertake coursework; I cannot conceive that spending one’s last four years towards a PhD (including the 2nd year of the M. Phil) in a situation where one is not taking any courses is the best thing to do in a career that requires knowledge of cutting edge approaches. I therefore endorse the University of Ghana’s change from where the advanced research degree is ‘by research (alone)’ to one that includes relevant course  work as well as non-credit courses (on skillful writing, proposal development, advanced analytical techniques, etc.) that are value-adding and enhance the professional skills of PhD and M. Phil students.  I will continue the RIPS policy of attracting international students and bring the best postgraduate minds to RIPS, which will grow University of Ghana’s revenue from post-graduate tuition.

Regarding practical training, RIPS has established a research field site in an urban poor community in Ga-Mashie, Accra. The proximity allows for the regular integration of field lessons into classroom teaching. Repeated surveys on population, health, poverty as well as climate change issues among the urban poor are being conducted at 18-month intervals. This is providing a unique opportunity for rigorous training in research methodology, and it is also leading to the creation of high-quality longitudinal data for use by students and staff as well as in programming and planning. My vision is to sustain this site and cultivate another research site in a peri-urban or rural setting under the auspices of our imminent Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) project.


Expanding Interdisciplinary Relationships

RIPS has been quite successful in forging interdisciplinary relationships not only locally with peer units in the University of Ghana, but also with other universities across the world. This stemmed from the realization that there was paradigm shift from the 1970s where population research and training was primarily focused on the three key pillars of population change, namely, fertility, mortality and migration – to one that recognizes the contribution of other disciplines. RIPS-ISSER-University of Sussex and RIPS-Department of Soil Science-Penn State collaborations are two of many examples. In addition, RIPS has undertaken research that encompasses the study of religions, aging, educational processes, inequality, etc., and I have been instrumental in this agenda.

My experience with inter-disciplinary research dates back to 2000 when I studied for my doctoral degree at the Centre for Development Studies, University of Bonn, Germany, where I had the opportunity to work with scientists from different backgrounds. Having joint publications with scientists from various disciplinary backgrounds, and from different institutions further attests to this. My vision is to expand the interdisciplinary linkages with relevant local and international research institutions by engaging in research that links the population to natural resources, such as land use/cover, forest resources, agricultural resources, mineral and oil resources, etc. This has the potential to attract more funders, and expanding the scope of the research agenda at RIPS.

Increasing the Quality and Quantity of Peer-reviewed Publications

Another remarkable achievement of RIPS in recent times is the depth and quality of publications from RIPS—most notably of our postgraduate students—in high impact, peer-reviewed journals, and presentations at major international and local scientific meetings. I myself have published in high impact-factor journals and made presentations at major international and local scientific meetings. This is a far cry from what existed when I first joined the institute.

My vision is to chart a course that will further encourage faculty members to publish. Faculty members who fall short of publishing at least three articles in impact-factor peer-reviewed journals within two years would be identified for assistance. I am of the view that this will go a long way to boost the webometrics ranking of the University of Ghana, and set it well on the course of attaining world class status.

Expand and Propagate

Most of the achievements of RIPS outlined above have been done with a very skeletal staff strength (the current figure is 4 full-timers), and limited space. The challenges of having a small teaching staff for research development and supervision of a growing cadre of M. Phil and PhD students, particularly given the very heavy mentoring that is the signature of RIPS, is obvious. I am of the view that RIPS is at a point where it should embark on a massive expansion and propagation drive, and my vision is to undertake this through three key activities.


Increasing Academic Staff Strength

In my view, RIPS will require about 12-15 full timers, mainly on the Research Fellows track, to move from its current funding portfolio of about half a million US Dollars a year, to about one and a half million US dollars a year, and to also sustain the continuing expansion in M. Phil and PhD student numbers from 2 M. Phil and 0 full-time PhDs six years ago, to the current figure of 18 M. Phil and 10 PhD full-time students, and to an anticipated doubling of that number within three years. In my capacity as the PI of the AARC project currently ongoing at RIPS, and through my own initiative, I have contracted Dr. Delali Benjamin Dovie, an Environmental Scientist from the University of Witwatersrand as a Diaspora African Scientist. His mandate is to help in student supervision and mentoring, and to, most importantly, attract grants to RIPS.  My plan is to recruit similar high quality scientists to blend with new faculty members that will be recruited at RIPS.

Building of an Office Complex, Lecture Halls and a State-of-the-art Conference Facility

It is obvious that the space available at RIPS cannot support the expansion drive that I have in mind. My plan is to immediately start the building of a 20 office complex with a state-of-the-art conference facility and lecture halls. The office complex would be built in phases, and, phase one, would have 10 offices, 2 lecture halls and a conference hall. The funds for the building project will be primarily generated from solicitations of our international funding partners including the Hewlett Foundation, and IDRC of Canada which has plans to turn the virtual AARC at RIPS into a brick and mortar one. In addition, other funding and private organizations as well as the RIPS’ large alumni network will be utilized to raise funds for the building project; RIPS has over the last few years began to systematically identify and compile its alumni list.

Publication of the State of the Ghanaian Population Report and Hosting of an Annual International Conference

My vision for RIPS as part of its propagation plans will be to undertake two new activities. Firstly, RIPS has not been the most successful in recent times in bridging the research-policy gap. I intend to initiate the publication of the state of the population of Ghana report modeled along the state of the Ghanaian Economy report of ISSER. This will be done every other year, and is intended to bring together researchers and policymakers to deliberate on population and development issues. Secondly, I have initiated the hosting of an annual international conference by RIPS, and the first in the series will be held from July 1-4 2012. The conference will be on Climate Change and Population in Africa (see www.ug.edu.gh/climateconference for more details). In addition, I am currently the Vice President (2012-2015) of the Union for African Population Studies (UAPS), the continental population association, and automatically becomes the President (from 2016-2019). I am leveraging this position to enhance the image and visibility of RIPS, and to convince the Union to host the 7th African Population Conference in 2015 in Ghana.

Sustain

Many research funding opportunities have terminated when the lead investigator retires or moves on, or when the funding agency becomes fatigued. RIPS suffered a similar fate in 1999 when the UNFPA which was its major funder at the time withdrew its funding giving barely six months notice. The ramifications of this were there for all to see, and was referred to at the outset of this document. My objective is that this will never again happen to RIPS. My major vision to lead RIPS is to put the Institute in a position that will make it self sustaining. I acknowledge the investment drive that has been pursued by the immediate past Director, and I intend to build upon that. The savings from grants (of which I was a major contributor) that have been invested will be consolidated and institutionalized. I intend to pursue a vigorous “grantsmanship” so as to increase the investment portfolio at RIPS. The  principal of this investment will be maintained at all times, and will only be built on, however, interests accruing from it would be used to finance infrastructural development including computing and library resources, providing seed grants for research, motivating faculty members to publish, and above all providing scholarships for Masters and Doctoral training as well as staff development.