SN 2 EP 6: From Manuscripts to Community Empowerment with Nicholas Outa of Dala Integrated Aquaculture Hub

14 March 2024 Categories: Mazungumzo Podcasts, News


mentorship, research, aquaculture, facilitator, science communication and social media, rural communities, aquatic ecologist


In this episode, we embark on a journey with Nicholas Outa, a driving force behind research mentorship at TCC Africa. Beginning as an early career researcher, Nicholas’s trajectory took an unexpected turn as he discovered a passion for mentorship and facilitation. We delve into how his hands-on training experiences shaped his evolution, propelling him from a learner to a trainer, guiding others in their research pursuits.

But Nicholas’s narrative doesn’t conclude there. His commitment to mentorship transcended academia, leading to the establishment of the groundbreaking initiative, the Dala Integrated Aquaculture Hub. Through this platform, Nicholas aims to empower rural communities with innovative aquaculture practices, fostering sustainability and resilience.

Here are the key things to look out for:

  1. Overcoming Challenges through Learning: Demonstrating how dedication and a willingness to learn can lead to success in new roles.
  2. Mentorship Beyond Academia: Discover how a passion for mentorship can extend beyond scholarly pursuits to positively impact communities.
  3. Leveraging Platforms for Growth: Mr. Nicholas stresses the importance of utilizing opportunities, such as platforms provided by organizations, to enhance one’s career and profile.
  4. Authenticity and Connection: Hear Mr Outa`s thoughts on bringing one’s true self into professional interactions, including mentorship, to foster genuine connections and improve work quality.



Welcome to Mazungumzo, African scholarly conversations, a podcast that highlights the perspectives of various stakeholders in academia, or research fields across Africa through open dialogue or Muslims on scholarly communication in Africa.

Joy Owango:

Welcome to Mazungumzo – African Scholarly Conversations, where we are joined by an expansive list of African policymakers, science communication specialists, innovators, and tertiary institution leads who contribute to this realm of science communication.

I’m your host Joy Owango, the Executive Director of the Training Centre in Communication (TCC Africa)

On today’s episode, we are privileged to have as a guest, our Research Capacity Advisor on Scientific Writing and Communication at the Training Centre in Communication, Mr. Nicholas Outa. Mr. Outa is the founder of Writing Hub Africa, a research and training hub in scientific writing and communication, and the co-founder of the initiative, Dala Integrated Aquaculture Hub. He is also an accomplished researcher and academic who’s published over 40 papers in peer-reviewed journals. In addition to his academic pursuits, Mr. Outa is an active contributor to the scientific community as a reviewer and academic editor for several scientific journals, the most recent being PloS One.

A warm welcome to the programme Mr. Outa!


Nicholas Outa:

Thank you so much. Thank you for allowing me to be here today, it feels like home because, you know, this is where most of the things happen. So thank you so much for the introduction. Thank you for having me today.


Joy Owango:

It has been quite a journey from when you joined us, as a student in 2016, as a postgraduate student, when you took part in our trainings on scientific writing and publishing that we co-hosted with DAAD. So, it’s been quite a journey from when you started as a student to where you are. So could you kindly take us through what has been happening beyond just being a student, working on your postgraduate degrees, and now opening up all these projects that you’re working on.


Nicholas Outa:

Thank you so much. It’s been quite a journey. And I think you have highlighted this very correctly. My background is in fisheries and aquaculture. Actually, I’m a limnologist by training. So I am an aquatic ecologist. During the training, I had published a bit of papers, and I had been doing some research in certain projects, but then I was doing things like, I was clueless about so many things, especially about scientific writing and communication. Yes, I was doing research, yes, I was publishing papers. But sometimes I was publishing in journals that were not have some good impact and some good quality, because I didn’t know just the right things to do. So, when I came for the training that was organized by DAAD and co-hosted by TCC. Africa, I think that is when I got to start knowing there is a difference even in terms of the journals that people can publish in, there is also a difference in the way you can select the right journal. I would publish a paper, I would do a manuscript maybe with my co-authors, and then just send it out there without being sure of so many things. I think that is where the journey started. So after that training, I got a bit of interest.  Sincerely speaking, my interest became more because the kind of training that I received that time was so hands on. I had gone for a few other trainings before. But I had gone for trainings where the facilitator would stand up there may be in front of people and explain on the board or whatever it was, the device they were using to explain. But then there was not so much chance for people to really also give their input and also just participate very actively. When I attended this training, one of the things that intrigued me so much was the facilitators, for lack of better word I would say they did very little to in terms of explaining.  I remember the idea of annotated manuscript; I think that has stuck with me forever. I use it even for my trainings even at Writing Hub Africa that I’ll talking about shortly. This annotated manuscript is an output that comes that came at the end of the training. We were told that at the end of this training, we want to go home with a manuscript. You know, when the training started when they say that I thought it’s too much to ask for we cannot do this in our in the few days we are here. But then the practicality came where every section that was now being discussed, we were being told what to do. When we were talking about abstract, we are told now I want us to write the abstract and everybody writes their own abstract. The facilitators kept saying, you don’t have to get to take this time you do it, we will figure it out, don’t worry. So we kept doing it. So, by the end of it, I had a manuscript, it might not, it could not have been the best. But then I had an idea of a manuscript and said, it is possible for to show somebody how these things are done by showing them. It is after I developed interest after the trainings, I got to TCC. During that training, there was a section on reference management, I remember this. So it is, during that time that the facilitator said, Can somebody explain to us if you’ve used Mendeley or Zotero, I remember so and I’ve used mainly for a long time since when I was doing my masters at the IHE Delft Institute for Water Education in Netherlands. So, I stood up and did a bit of an explanation about mainly how to go about it and the facilitator was intrigued, and also, the TCC Africa team was there. And it is around that time that I was told by program’s officer that I did a good job. He asked if I was interested in training people or showing people how these things are done, I said, Yeah, I’m interested in this. But then I did not have facilitation skills. I would facilitate, I would teach people but then I needed the skills honed, you know, I needed this skill, I needed somebody to show me how these things are done. I had the ideas but then how then do you pass it to somebody. I had been a part time lecturer, even at that time I had been a part time lecturer for one year before I went this training. But then, when I now joined TCC, this is when I got into training. And I remember I don’t know whether other organizations also do it. But at TCC there is what we call baptism by fire. We’ll talk about this one time. So, this baptism by fire was after I had been taken through the process, we are told you have the content, part of it is this, you are added a bit of content that you can go and familiarize yourself with and now we I had a mentor. I was attached to a professor who was showing me how these things are done, how to facilitate, basically the whole thing is about training about teaching and about delivering content. And then now the first training because that time there were still doing physical trainings. Sometimes I miss the actual TCC trainings at Chiromo.

Joy Owango:

Yes. Now they’ve all become virtual, most of them.

Nicholas Outa:

During that time, when I came for my baptism by fire. The professor is seated back there. You know, when I came in, the first thing she told me was I’m here not to monitor what you’re doing. But I’m here to give you moral support, and chip in from time to time if there’s any explanation you want me to help you with. So, I trained and what happened is she had she, she gave me the feedback that she gave me after that training, I think built so many things. And I think this was feedback that I got from Joy one time, there’s a time we could trained with Joy. Joy told me that because there is a piece of Nicholas that I have not seen in your training. There’s something in you that when you talk and when you interact with people that you are not bringing into the trainings and she said next time I come for a training I want you to come with that part that you’re not bringing. So, they didn’t explain that what it was.


Joy Owango:

I think it is the issue of bringing in your personality as a trainer because it’s the human element of training. So, that is something that is also very important when you come in as a facilitator because you know, you’re interacting with people, so they need to see that personality within that process as well. Yeah.


Nicholas Outa:

Yeah. When you told me and I remember when professor told me Nicholas, there is a piece of Nicholas that I’m not seeing in your training. Professor also said, I think your gestures are too much so you might you end up also confusing the people you are training. I still use my hands to gesture but then they showed me how to use them to emphasize on certain points. So, it’s quite a bit of a journey. After that, then I now started getting trainings. Unfortunately, now we transitioned, I don’t know whether it is fortunate or unfortunate, there are very good and bad sides to this. But we transitioned now to online trainings that I still do. So after that, I also underwent other trainings in different aspects apart from just scientific communication, I went into a lot of trainings about so many tools about Open Science and all these other tools. So slowly by slowly, because I’ve worked with TCC for some time. Joy, you kept saying at one point that there are so many people who need to be guided and helped and mentored in these things and TCC Africa alone cannot do all these things for everybody. You were telling me this in most of our conversations, and then I don’t know, I sat down with a few friends. And then we said, you know, maybe we can form something, even if it’s going to grow slowly, I remember when we registered Writing Hub Africa, that has now brought about the TikTok channel that will also you know, talk about slightly. We got inspiration to register Writing Hub Africa from what TCC does and we borrow quite a bit from TCC. We are told, when a tree grows out of a mango tree with you know, this fruit does not fall far away from the tree. And we, if you borrow from someone, you form something as an inspiration out of what someone else does, then you tend to tend to do the good things you liked about it. So there’s quite a bit that we do the other side. I think that is part of the journey right now maybe we can also discuss about the mentorship and other things as we go along. But basically, that’s the journey up to where I think Writing Hub Africa was formed. That is also now training and mentoring African researchers but also working together with TCC also mentored by the same because I am being mentored by TCC. But this is not only mentoring Nicholas Outa, but also mentoring, Writing Hub Africa, because there is a partnership that is now running on TikTok, and we’ll talk about.


Joy Owango:

Pretty much what you’re taking us through in your journey is that, Yes, you started as an early career researcher and a participant in the training. And your interest, in learning came about from the ease of how the research lifecycle was presented to you and the support ecosystem that was presented to you. And this has led you to not only setting up your own company, which is Writing Hub Africa, which is also supporting researchers on this in the scientific writing ecosystem. But also, most importantly, you transitioned to becoming a research capacity advisor where you already work with various solutions that would support early career researchers improving their scholarly communication and improving their visibility. And as a capacity advisor, it also made you also grow to becoming a mentor of which you are a mentor with Eider Africa, which is a research mentorship program, and journal club based out of Nairobi. So, you can see that you’ve gone full circle by just being trained by coming in as a trainee. And now you’ve built up various partnerships and you’ve grown in through the ecosystem, that and community that TCC Africa has created. Now, bearing in mind that you have gone through this entire process and you’re seeing and you’re now actively not only been a researcher but actually actively mentoring researchers. What part of your experience in the last seven years where you’ve, you’ve worked with TCC Africa and also started working with our partners. What part of those seven years have actually influenced you on your mentoring approach?


Nicholas Outa:

There’s one thing that I want to add, I don’t take myself very seriously, I only take my job seriously. So, if you give me a job, if I’m pursuing something I want to achieve, I will take that seriously and put my efforts into it. But then my personality does not allow me to be very uptight and a very serious person in so many situations. So, I think one of the things that has helped me so much to find my space within TCC, is the fact that it’s a free space. I don’t know how people will define it but my own definition of that, and why I consider it a free space is I’ve always been told Nicholas, just be you just do you, be you and do you. In fact, when Harrison calls me and I tell him, tomorrow, this training that I’m doing for this is tomorrow, but I’m a bit also, I’m feeling a bit anxious about it, because this is a new tool I’m trying tomorrow tells me Nicholas you’ve always been you so don’t change anything, just be you and do you. Now TCC Africa has always encouraged me to be me and to do me, in fact, I’m not doing anything different. With the people I mentor, through Eider Africa, or through my company, Writing Hub Africa, what I do is I always allow people to be themselves, I tell them, hey, if this is who you are, then we connect very easily when you find somebody so authentic. And I found a lot of authenticity, especially for the people I’m working with at TCC Africa, that is one. Authenticity and also allowing people to be who they are. Whenever I get a job at TCC I’m told, Hey Nicholas we are planning this for next week, we want you to do this and that kindly prepare, I don’t have to crack my head, I will only maybe call or write emails just for clarification, but then I know that I’ve been given the free will to do what I think is best. Now, with that, it means that there is a lot of trust that has been put in me and in my capacity. I think that is one thing that has also challenged me so much to be more of a mentor also, because I have always felt that, you know TCC trusts that I can be able to achieve whatever I’m been given to achieve. So that has as always encouraged me because apart from just mentoring them into scientific writing and communication, I would also want to give them that feeling of I know, I showed you this thing yesterday, and I’m telling you today to write it, I know you will write it. So even if you write it and not write it correctly, I remember sometimes I’m told to write a few things and turn to TCC, the kind of feedback you get, I always get is not the feedback of you should know better and stuff like this is the feedback of this good job. But then I wish it would have been written this this way, because then it could bring it out this way. So that is one thing I do with the people I mentor. And I know many of them will listen to this podcast, and they will attest to this. I always tell people, you know the way you give feedback, and this is one thing that has always stuck with me, I always want when we were running one of the trainings in the Open Africa Peer trainers program, one of the things we were talking about is about giving constructive feedback. And this is one thing that even before that program started, I had already started seeing this in TCC. So that is one thing I also as also influenced way I do my mentorship. I also make sure that if we are giving a discussion, I’ll always say yeah, if that is how you are thinking it’s fine. But then I think this way, rather than telling somebody that is not right. Giving feedback for me is one of those things, so trusting in me and giving some good feedback. But also, I have gotten quite a bit of tools that can help me because the training that I got is hands on. So, when I’m mentoring somebody, I always believe, let’s say I’m mentoring somebody on how, let’s say they have written their thesis, and I am mentoring them to extract a manuscript out of their thesis for publication. Here’s an example of one of the ways now I will have to use the tools that I was given and these tools are so practical, so it cannot allow me to mentor this person generically by telling them if they want to write an introduction, I ask them, where is your thesis? Then I start asking the questions. Why do you want to publish a paper for example. And then this is where you get the skeleton of the paper. This is where you get started with the structure. Then with the structure I want, I don’t give them what to write because what to write is within their thesis, so I don’t write it for them. I just tell them in the introduction I wanted to put information talking about a ABCD, in the abstract, I want this and then so we have a skeleton. They go and do the skeleton. And then I just have them review and give them feedback that they can work on. So those are some of the things that have really influenced the way I do my mentoring, and this has helped me not even just about mentoring at Eider Africa or for TCC, or at Writing Hub Africa, but even at Maseno University where I’m now completing my PhD, there are so many students who are behind me, and what happens is they know they can always run to Nick. That’s what they call me. They call Nick, he will help you do this thing. Nick knows everything about scientific writing and communication, so those are the main things. The feedback that I received is what I give because, we borrow a lot from our mentors, by the way. So, if you’re mentored by somebody who is harsh somebody, then you tend, unknowingly, you end up being harsh to the people whom you mentor or interact with. A mentor who walks the journey with you holds your hands and tells you not every time you will do things exactly the way they’re expected to be done. But then how then do you give feedback that somebody feels like this is not a personal attack, or this is not hatred, but this is correction. And it is one thing I’m very conscious about. That is one thing I’m always very conscious about because most of the time I’m dealing with early career researchers. I started as an early career researcher, TCC gave me professors to hold my hands. Now, if they were harsh on me, do you think I could have gotten the chance to be where I am today? No. Because I would have said that this is a hard thing, these people are also being harsh on me. But they walked the journey with me, they held my hands. In fact, they kept telling me Nicholas, you know more than you are, there’s just so much you know, already we are just helping you unlock it. So, we just hold your hands and walk the journey with you. So I think when you mentor somebody and you make them feel stupid, then even if it is something they wanted to learn, they lose interest because they say and Nicholas sees me….  even if they’re going to give their point, they say, I’ll give my point, and I’ll be insulted for giving that point, so then that space is not there. But also, one thing I’ve done with the people I also mentor is I develop a very deep connection with them. Because I think one thing that I’ve also learned from Eider Africa and TCC is that mentorship is not just about because when you are mentoring somebody you are walking the journey with them. So, it’s not just about the superficial like we meet every day and I talk to you about scientific writing, asks the point where your thesis I give you some tips and then it ends there. You know, once in a while, even if it’s not a training session or a mentoring session, I just, you know, pick a call and say, hey, James, how are you? It’s been a while I hope you’re okay, then you start asking, hey, but then what is the thesis I’ve been expecting you to send me at least some feedback on the thesis. So that personal connection is also one thing that has to work for me. And is one thing because at TCC even if its not a real engagement that has been going on. But then once in a while somebody drops a message on WhatsApp, somebody calls to say, hey, how are you? It’s been a long time. I hope you’re okay. You’re doing fine. I was just checking on you. Now, if I think that as a mentor, if you’re doing that your mentee now starts feeling our relationship is beyond just the papers that we are writing this person cares about me as a human being, because there’s a lot of surrounding this. So, those are some of the things that have really helped me to be a better mentor. For, you know, for the people I deal with as a mentor. Yes.


Joy Owango:

That is that is quite interesting, because what you’re really espousing is not only your passion for the activities that you’re doing, especially when it comes to mentorship and also your research career, but it’s also humanizing the process. When you humanize the process. It makes people at ease to work with you. And it means the recipient feels that he is genuinely being supported in achieving his goals, whether it is it means finishing his postgraduate degree or his publications. The postgraduate process can be very lonely especially for early career researchers. It’s very lonely and if there is no support system, they quickly give up on the way so yes, humanizing this process is extremely important. Now, I’m going to just digress a bit and ask. Your academic background has influenced quite a number of activities that you’ve delved into especially entrepreneurial ventures, the first one you’ve talked about was Writing Hub Africa, and how you’re using that also as a support system to accommodate early career researchers, especially when it comes to scientific writing. Now, you’ve also delved into other ventures and one is this project called the Dala Integrated Aquaculture Hub, which is primarily based on your research, focus, the focus of your research area. So, the Dala Integrated Aquaculture Hub aims to empower women and youth in food production. So could you share more about the hub’s mission, some of the positive outcomes it has had on your targeted communities.


Nicholas Outa:

Thank you so much, I think when you get people who, encouraged you to nurture and also encourage you to mentor others, and I think, you subconsciously try to just hold people’s hands moving forward, even beyond just academia. So what I realized Dala Integrated Aquaculture Hub was an idea about… I’ve been working in part of so many projects, and one of them was the project that was talking about food and nutrition security. And then I realized the outcomes of that research, were published, we published very good papers, but then farmers did not read those papers. But if they did a very small percentage that so we develop very nice technologies like aquaponics, bio flow systems that can help farmers enhance fish production in ponds, that can also reduce the number of feeds they’re putting there. We developed very good technologies, but then I realized these things did not reach the farmers then I said, hey, why can I not form a small hub? It seems small right now, but the dream is big. Why can’t I form a contact form that gets showcases the different simple technologies that can help rural communities especially women and youth, enhance food production. So, we are talking about food systems and I think the whole world is now talking about nutrition, food and nutrition insecurity and the whole concept of Dala was to showcase to make a hub where rural communities and Peri urban, because we are in a peri urban setting so rural and Peri urban communities, especially women and youth can come and learn about different food production technologies and innovations. In fact, we call them TIMPS- Technologies, innovations and management practices that can enhance food production. So, there we are showcasing things to do with different aquaculture technologies, we are doing different technologies in crop production, vegetables, fruits, we are also doing beehives and a few other technologies that we are showing, and I think the strength of that farm is where we are using trash to grow food. So, one is we are using old tires, and we are making them into conical gardens or vertical gardens. Initially, conventionally people use PVC papers to make those vertical gardens but then we are using old tires to make the vertical garden. So, we are talking about technologies that are friendly to the local community that they can afford cheaply. And they can they can get so far, because the hub is registered. And then under the hub there is a woman’s group and a youth group. And then now there is a group of people with disability. So, these groups are the ones that do the small, different projects within the within the hub. But then the hub is now a uniting factor where anyone else can come and learn about this technology. So far, so many women and youth have now and take some of these technologies at home, and I’ve always encouraged them, each person must have a conical garden at your backyard, you must have a small even if it’s just a raised pond one that you can make out wood off cuts and liner and just make a small one that can give you 100 or 200 fish. So, people are already adopting this. And we are also looking out for partners and sponsors and people who can support this and the dream is that one time we can be able to a center that showcases these different technologies that are friendly to the local farmer that can also help them enhance food security but the most important thing was to bridge the link between research and adoption  and upscaling of the  research output because we do good research and publish on Nature or Elsevier or elsewhere, and present this in conferences and seminars and the farmer who is supposed to benefit from the output of this research does not benefit. So, what we are doing part of it is the citizen science part of this because we are doing co creation, most of of these technologies are being done by the youth and the women. And what I tell them is, once they created some science, agronomy, for example, and I tell them, explain to these people, why this one is producing more, then you give the simplest science about it, you tell them, you know, if you put this, if we do this, the way you’ve made it, it’s going to produce more because of ABCD. So, they feel like they are doing science, even if they don’t understand the science behind it. So the cocreation is very important, because I think one thing that we do sometimes not in a very right way, the conventional way of doing research is we go to communities and tell them what to do. That is what some scientists are doing. And most scientists, I think we need to change the narrative and that is part of what Dala Integrated Aquaculture Hub is going to do. change the narrative. And we do what we call co creation and encourage this this citizen science involving them. When we started this thing, we said we want to form a youth and women group, so that they understand this whole thing, if you meet with people from this youth group, they will explain to you what we are doing there, why it is important for us to do it. They can explain to you why we are doing a polyculture of catfish and tilapia and why we cannot grow Nile patch in fish ponds, they understand the simple, simple things behind it. And that is, for me, it’s a very good thing, because now they understand why people do the things they do. There has always been a disconnect between researchers and communities because most communities do not understand what researchers do, and researchers don’t understand what communities want and when what they do. So, we come down and tell you they want to take blood samples. And we don’t tell you where we are taking them. We don’t even tell you what we are doing and why it is important for us to do those things. So, I said, this is a center because we are already in talks with universities like Maseno, that they can also send students to start doing experiments. And we can always partner in future when they are writing projects. We are thinking of a center where we can now help bridge this so whatever has been done in Maseno for example, come to the hub, we will showcase the technology in a way that is downscaled that our local farmer can take up and use that is part of the dream. And we are two of us, this idea came to me and I shared it with a lady Julia, who is also now the co-founder at Dala so we are two of us. We have a think tank behind it. So the think tank is a group of 15 people who are helping us.  And I’ve always been I think one of the things that Harrison has always told me that you can have a very good idea. But then if you don’t take care of it, the idea might end up growing too big and it overtakes you so already so big, so I don’t want to stay with it alone. And then at one point you have so many people coming and they so many so much to handle and no one will help you handle them because you kept them away when you started there because they don’t understand. So, they don’t know what you are doing they will tell you die with your activities because you did not want to involve us from the beginning. So, I think that is one thing I was also picked that if you have a brilliant idea share it with likeminded people and just start the dream with two or three people who have agreed to start the dream with you and then they will see the potential later and join. So right now, that is what we are doing at Dala Integrated Aquaculture Hub.


Joy Owango:

Amazing work that you’re doing. And of course, I’m assuming you’re also using your mentorship experience of working with different communities as in, you’re working with, of course with the academic community, but now you’re using that experience as a mentor with work when working with the CBO community members at Dala Integrated Aquaculture Hub, right?


Nicholas Outa:

Yeah, that’s true most of the youth group that I’m working are comprised of the people… because before I started my journey with TCC, there was a problem and then I became a boda boda rider so I used to ride motorcycles. I think people know what boda boda is. These motorcycles that transport people for at a fee. I used to be a boda boda rider for close to two years. So, most of the people that I’m working with are from our boda boda base. So, because I’m still the chairman there they said they are not letting me go. They told me Nicholas even if you get a PhD, you will remain our chairman so I am still the chairman. When I started this, I said I wanted a youth group they said you are going to call other people but then you have to reserve some spaces for our base, because we’ve worked with them for a long time, they call me Prof. Part of what I’m doing is showing them that you can still do…most of the are still doing bod boda and my dream is to mentor them to be able to look for alternative livelihoods away from boda boda, because at one point maybe might become unsustainable, but if I’m able to mentor them into embracing aquaculture or horticulture or  agriculture as a business, then for me, I shall have done so much.I think this is also a platform for me to mentor the youth and also the women because what I’m doing is now for the women, there are people who are you know, because the think tank is a group of people with different backgrounds, so there are people in rural development, there are people with the expertise in, in entrepreneurship, there are those who are experts in nutrition, human nutrition and stuff. So, when I want somebody to talk to the women about how to feed the infants or all these things, I get this, nutritionist to talk to them and mentor them and walk with them the journey. So, I think it’s just an extension of what I borrowed from academia and bringing it to the community. And it’s working. It’s working. And it’s just my hope that because one thing with me is, as I said, I take my jobs, what do I want to be I don’t know how to deal. It’s a hard time I’m struggling with I, when I start something and it fails, I always feel terrible. So I will never want to fail. And as I said, also, I think one of the things that has also made me connect very easily with the youth and women group is I am a free soul. I like being easy. I really don’t like you know, people tiptoeing around me so much. And I also like keeping to the end of what I start. If I tell you, we are meeting at the farm tomorrow, and when we meet, we are going to do ABCD I’ll make sure I am there, and I’ll make sure we do it as I promised. So, then it so that people see the commitment. That is one thing that some of us working with communities has taught me that if you tell them to come and then they don’t see you, tomorrow you call them they will not come because they will be like that guy will not show up. So keep your end of the bargain, and you will work well with these people.


Joy Owango:

So now with all the developments that you’ve worked on, you’ve worked on in terms of mentorship within the scholarly communication ecosystem, but also within the project, the community-based project that you’re working on, you have also diversified by mentoring on social media. And together with TCC, and your organization Writing Hub Africa, we were able to launch the Tiktok page, the Simple Academic, which is engaging early career researchers on the social media platform. Take us through how the scholarly community can utilize social media to increase their research visibility as well. And also how, how are you using this platform to effectively support and to engage early career researchers? So how can you use the social media, how we are using the simple academic to engage and support researchers but at the same time, how can also researchers take advantage of social media to increase their visibility?


Nicholas Outa:

Thank you so much. I think one of the things I have started talking about what was Simple Academic which is a partnership between TCC Africa and Writing Hub Africa to create scholarly different types of scholarly communication to also mentor these early career researchers beyond just the physical and the in-person trainings that we do. People use social media for different things and you know, you cannot now ignore the power of social media. In fact, social media is becoming the mainstream media. So, you can use it for several things. I want to give an example I use social media for two things. One is I use social media to demystify academia and demystify research and researchers. That’s why once in a while, I can throw a meme as long as it’s not out of seems , once in a while, I can post a very nice story or a joke. One is to demystify research and demystify academia and researchers like what we are doing on TikTok because people go on TikTok maybe to just ease the pressure maybe they are from work or school and they’re saying let me relax as I watch a few videos on TikTok to make me laugh or just to entertain me. And then we say as you entertain yourself, you cannot find some few tips that can help you and people have received it so well. And because we cross post it, we can post it on Facebook, on LinkedIn, and all these other platforms. And people are really, really interested in this.  I’ve seen several people commenting and saying, this is why I’m here, I found what I was looking for. So, it means that we are using now social media, especially TikTok, Facebook and LinkedIn, through the short videos that we create, to reach the people who we cannot reach physically or those who cannot fit into our conventional trainings that we do at TCC Africa and Writing Hub Africa. Now, researchers can use social media to showcase what they do, people are doing so many good things, and there is a lot of noise on social media, you have to be part of that noise. Otherwise, your voice will be drowned completely, nobody will hear what you’re doing. So, you’re doing a very good job, but you keep it under wraps, and nobody knows what you’re doing. So, I’m not everyone is a social media person. But then once you publish a paper, let’s say you’re working on a project, once in a while, you can be posting not into too much detail of the data that is there, because then you’ll see what to share on social media. But then just share some general information about the project so that people get to know Okay, so currently, this is what these people are doing. This is the objectives of the project, maybe this is how it is going to impact the community. When you publish a paper, write a general synopsis of the paper, then put the link to that paper, what will this do? people will click on this paper and some of them will download and even cite your paper. Some of them will just download and read. But then you shall have expanded your reach. There are people whom could not have seen this paper on the on the website of the of the journal where it was published, but then you got it closer to them on social media. I want to give an example. There is a time I have been posting a lot of things on aquaculture and some project we were doing on LinkedIn, and somebody reached out to me. So, they reached out to me from Asia and they wanted me to do some job for them just based on what I post on social media because they saw I post a lot about aquaculture, about this project on food security and just like that I got a job and I got a consultancy, and you know, we got some money out of it. So that is how powerful social media has been. I think one of the other things that you also asked was about how people can use social media to enhance research visibility. So, I think it’s just about stepping out of your comfort zone. I know so many people are saying I’m not a social media person. And people also think that social media is for jokers. Of course, let’s say there are 70,000 jokers. But then there’s also 200 people who are serious who could be intrigued by what you’re what you’re posting on Twitter or on LinkedIn or Facebook, because I have seen people reaching out to me from as far as London to ask me, Hey, I want to come and do some research about Nile perch farming in Lake Victoria. ‘’I see you post a lot about Nile Perch, about Lake Victoria, about Fisheries, is it possible to partner?” just because they saw what I was doing on social media. Social media is a powerful platform that researchers can use to enhance their visibility.


Joy Owango:

Okay, so now, which leads to my final question, what are your parting shots to early career researchers? Any researcher wants to get into mentorship? What would you advise them to do?


Nicholas Outa:

What I would advise is, one, there is no shortcut to some of these things. You put a lot of work into this. And one thing that I have learned over the years and this is what I tell early career researchers is that…there are several voices that will tell you that your mentor is using you. That is one thing that you need to get out of your way so and so is using you to make money, evaluate your relationship with this guy, is he really holding your hand?  is he pointing you to a direction of opportunities?  Because there’s a time to learn and a time to earn. That is one thing that early career researchers must know, this learning phase, sometimes is very uncomfortable. You work with a professor who gives you a lot of work. And then you keep saying this guy keeps sending me things to do for him and he’s doing nothing. Because when you send these things to him, you get feedback. That is how you learn, because you will start writing proposals for funding so that you become a professor like him. How will you learn these things if this professor doesn’t give you work, so be patient enough to learn. So that at one point you will start earning. So, there is a time to earn, and there is a time to earn, that is one. Secondly, be teachable. If you are given a platform, this is what I tell early career researchers if you have a platform, don’t play around with that platform. And I will give you an idea around here. I got a platform through TCC Africa. Now it is through this platform that I’m today a moderator at AfricArxiv, I’m a mentor at TCC and also at Eider Africa. I am an editor right now, at PLOS ONE. I’m also doing some work with TCC and CABI; we are working with so many organizations. And you know what that means? Apart from just building my profile, I’m also getting money. And this is one thing we also need to talk about, I’m also making money in the process. So, I’m telling you that when you get a platform, as an early career researcher, try as much as you can to use it, there are so many organizations that will only give you the platform, how you use that platform is up to you. So, if you get a good platform, make good use of that platform. But then you also have to love doing what you’re doing. And the bottom line is, don’t try to block yourself from what you’re doing this, I don’t know how to put it but what I’m saying is always bring a piece of you into what you do. If you’re mentoring people, and you’re a person who is funny and you like using humor, for example and you know, I’m a funny guy, once in a while I could throw in the jokes here and there. Don’t try to say that when I’m now mentoring people, I have to be very serious. Otherwise, they will not take me seriously. They will always take you seriously if they know the content is legit. So, this is what you do. You can use humor, if you’re somebody who likes humor, don’t try to say that I’m not going to use the humor here because this person will not know bring a part of you. Because when you bring a part of you into your mentorship, when you bring a part you in the research, and to the team you’re working with right now you bring a part of you into what you’re doing. What happens is, people will connect with you more freely, and then the connection becomes deeper. And then you now find the work is flawless. Because that is what I’ve also seen, one of my immediate mentors, is Dr. Ogello and one of the things is we are very free with him. Sometimes I post things on social media, and I just tag him. And you see, we just joke with him. So, when he calls me to his office and says, Nicholas, I want us to discuss this chapter of your thesis, I don’t get tense, there is no tension, because I’m going to meet my friend because I’m authentic, and he is authentic with me. So, bring a piece of you if you want to bring it, try to moderate it but don’t block it completely, that is the parting shot. And I hope whoever will listen to this. Because I know it is going to reach so many people, they will be able to understand that it’s a journey. People don’t wake up one day because sometimes when we mentor people and they think well, how did you come to know this? How do you know about all these tools? How did you know how to do this?  It’s a journey and it takes a lot of dedication, there is a time to learn and there is time to earn.


Joy Owango:

That is a nice way to end indeed, there’s a time to learn, and there’s a time to earn. Thank you so much for sharing with us your journey. We are so proud of your achievements. And I truly hope that you will continue supporting early career researchers and mentoring them in this process and also making them understand it’s a process. It’s a journey. It’s not a quick fix. There’s no quick fix to this process. And it’s something that we should inculcate as our everyday in our everyday activities. So that we are able to support those who are in need and also be ready to be supported because that is the only way we are able to work in in this entire research lifecycle, and also appreciate the power of mentorship.

Thank you so much, Nicholas, and do have a lovely day. Goodbye for now.


Nicholas Outa:

Goodbye. Thank you so much.



Thanks for joining us on today’s episode of Mazungumzo podcast, be sure to subscribe and follow us on all our channels for more updates and for candid stories by researchers, policymakers, high education leaders, and innovators on their journeys. See you in our next episode.


Listen to the full episode and explore more episodes from the #Mazungumzo- African Scholarly Conversations podcast on the following platforms:

Spotify (Available Globally):



Apple Podcasts (Globally):



Afripods (Available in Africa):


TuneIn (Available Globally):


Player FM (Available Globally):


TCC Africa-Training Centre in Communication News Room (Available Globally):


Listen, Learn, and Share! Let’s amplify the voice of African scholarly contributions.




#Sciencecommunication #researchvisibility


Sign Up for the Latest Updates


The Training Centre in Communication (TCC Africa) is the first award-winning African-based training centre to teach effective communication skills to scientists.


University of Nairobi, School of Biological Sciences, Chiromo Campus, Gecaga Institute Building.

+254 020 808 6820
+254 020 2697401
+254 733 792316

Skip to content