groups » Training and Career Development » For one month only - PROFESSIONAL CAREER ADVICE FROM UCTs DR DELVA SHAMLEY

ONLY FOR JUNE 2016! Dr Delva Shamley, Director of UCT's Clinical Research Centre, is available to answer your burning questions about careers advice. Dr Delva Shamley has a host of relevant careers experience and is uniquely placed to advise on careers in research. She is a South African graduate and has been in academia for 26 years, 13 of which were spent in the UK. Her training and experience of clinical research comes from Oxford NHS and the Centre for Medical Statistics, Oxford University, UK. Delva has been training and supporting clinicians in Research Methods for many years. She returned to Cape Town in 2011 and started as Deputy Director of the UCT CRC in October of 2013.
Post your questions below, and Dr Delva Shamley will reply shortly.


  • Hello Dr Delva,
    It's with great pleasure that I receive and appreciate you and TGHN for the opportunity to discuss career in Clinical research.
    My question is on how aspiring Researchers like myself from LMIC can gain hands on international experience and mentoring in clinical research.
    I am currently a Master of Science in Public Health student with epidemiology as major and seeking international volunteering opportunity.

    At the moment it has been a daunting task bearing in mind that most job opportunities are seeking experienced hands with up to 10 years.

    I'd be Glad if you could advise and refer me accordingly.

  • Dear Dr Delva Shamley,

    I see research is a career pathway in Europe and possibly other developing countries I assume. This is not the same for my country NIgeria. How can we as interest groups possibly facilitate developing a career in research in countries like Nigeria? Just you thoughts

  • delvashamley Delva 2 Jun 2016

    Dear Mr Emmanuel, can I just confirm that you wish to know how you can develop as a Principal Investigator to design and carry out your own research in the future?

  • Dear Dr Delva,

    My question in addition to knowing how to develop Principal Investigating skills in research design in the future is to gain hands on experience in locally with global relevance.

    More so securing distal and proximate mentors.

    Thank you.

  • delvashamley Delva 3 Jun 2016

    Dear Mr Emmanuel, ok lets start with how to develop the skills and training to become a researcher with your own programme of research.
    This tends to follow a very clear pattern of development and you are already on the right track. A student doing an MSc/MPhil will select (or be offered) a final research project. The supervisor of the project will provide guidance on the development of the student during this process, but should include a course on Research Methods. At this stage the student could already be thinking what area of research interests them and who the key players are in that field. The next step after the Masters level of study is of course the PhD. This is a very important point in your development. Try to select a supervisor who is a key researcher in your field of interest. Obtaining a topic can be either by approaching the researcher directly or applying for research topics associated with scholarships. Obtaining experience and training in a laboratory or research unit with a reputation is very useful and can lead to many opportunities. During the course of a PhD a student should be accessing all the training necessary to complete the PhD project.
    In terms of obtaining experience, there are several options. Any postgraduate student should be given opportunities to contribute to the work of a research unit in the institute in which they are registered and thus learn on site. However, a lot of units will offer internships to students who are post MSc/PhD. These internships are usually hosted by each country and their availability should be explored by country.
    Should you wish to gain experience in being part of a team of people running projects in a research unit then your best approach would be to contact them directly, provide a CV (excellent guidelines on GHN website) explain your interest and willingness, provide the time you have available weekly and for how long. There are many roles in a research team and perhaps you need to think about where your strengths lie, eg are you good at data capture and use of computers or are you better at laboratory work.
    I hope this is helpful,
    Dr Shamley

  • delvashamley Delva 3 Jun 2016

    Dear Morenike, yes this is indeed not standard across the world. In South Africa we are still working with SARIMA to develop career pathways for our research staff. When I was in the UK, this was a very long and arduous journey that is now in place. Many countries still do not offer the training and support structures to ensure staff have a career pathway which further improves staff retention and thus retention of a highly skilled workforce.
    There are several ways in which you could influence the development of these pathways.
    1. Develop and accredit degrees in research eg, MSC in Clinical Research.
    2. Continued Professional Development for each role - there are excellent online courses and blended learning opportunities via GHN. These must be given accreditation points.
    3. If in an academic institution, work with Human Resources in your institutions to recognise the difference between academic employees and contracts versus research staff and contracts. Assist them to develop a clear career pathway for promotions.
    4. Pull all your research units together to put in place a mentoring and training programme between you that recognises each units strengths and shares the good practice.
    5. Lastly , and certainly not easy, is consult with professional bodies to try and get certain roles recognised as professional, eg work with the Nursing Council to recognise a research nurse as a profession.
    If I think of anything else I will get back to you,
    Kind Regards

  • Dear Dr Delva what can be done in countries such as mine were health facilities nor the public health doesnt have research policies? what can we do to implement research policies and change the way others look at research?

  • delvashamley Delva 7 Jun 2016

    Dear Dr Morban, this is a very big question and I am afraid I do not know your position so apologies if I am telling you what you know.
    The development of policy is dependent on evidence, public and practitioner engagement, regional priorities, resource limitations, primary health care needs etc. For all these reasons the development of National research policies needs to be achieved at a Department of Health level in most countries in order for any unit/institution to be able to dovetail their own policies. There is of course nothing stopping institutions going forward to champion the cause at DOH level and indeed there are many opportunities in Africa to leverage support for this. I would use the support provided by Centres of Excellence in Africa that have either developed and/or are developing policies of this nature. Many of them have been supported by EDCTP and I would suggest you go to their website to obtain contacts with whom you can collaborate and discuss a way forward. Research policy has many facets from health priorities in research, to regulation and governance of research. I am sure that most institutions would be willing to share policy documents with an emerging research institution.

    Kind Regards

  • timothykariotis Timothy Kariotis 16 Jun 2016

    Dear Dr Shamley,

    Thank You for taking the time to answer career questions.

    I am currently based in Australia, studying a Master of Public Health, specialising in health service administration, as well as honors in psychology. What activities and spaces in the global health sphere could I get involved in at this time in my career? I am currently involved with the Cochrane collaboration which I find insightful and rewarding, but I would love the opportunity to develop and contribute more to the global research community, and the global health community.

    Kind Regards
    Timothy Kariotis

  • Following the discussions keenly. I have just joined this wonderful group today.
    Quite insightful!

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