Ken Fening is Senior Research Fellow (Agricultural Entomologist) at The University of Ghana – Soil and Irrigation Research Centre (SIREC), and Coordinator of the African Regional Postgraduate Programme in Insect Science (ARPPIS)  

Ken is in charge of coordinating the graduate (MPhil and PhD) entomology programme at the University of Ghana. Ken also undertakes research, teaching and dissemination of pest management technologies to students, farmers, agricultural extension agents, phytosanitary inspectors, researchers, and others.  

He was part of the research team undertaking the CONNECTED pump-prime funded project: Formal identification and characterisation of the viral pathogen causing a new aphid-associated disease of cabbage in Ghana. The project led to the publication of two papers by the team, in Phytoparasitica and The Journal of Economic Entomology, and a discussion piece in a Microbiology Today special issue on arboviruses.  

Ken believes his involvement with The CONNECTED Network has served as a springboard to fast-track his career progression and professional development.   

Setting out what he learned from involvement in the research project, Ken says: “I have learnt about using molecular tools to identify the aphid vectors and the potential causative organism (virus) associated with the new necrosis disease on cabbage in Ghana. I also learnt a great deal about project management and requirements for the administration of international grants, such as due diligence.”  

Multidisciplinary working   

And Ken’s experiences as part of this project have greatly impacted his approach to multidisciplinary work involving virology and entomology: “The platform provided by CONNECTED for this project has further deepened a research collaboration between myself and Prof. John Carr (University of Cambridge),” he says. “It meant we have been able to bring together our respective expertise in entomology and virology, complementing each other.   

“This led to the identification of the potential virus associated with the manifestation of the novel necrotic disease on cabbage, their associated aphids, and the efforts on vector control to curb the spread of the disease. Significantly, this baseline information will be the backbone for developing sustainable management interventions for the disease, and their associated insect vectors on cabbage,” he adds.  

New research collaborations  

But for Ken the research project has been just one of many triggers for new scientific collaborations that have come thanks to his involvement in The CONNECTED Network. He cites the 2020 ‘Springboard to Impact’ online conference as a great example, where he says he got to interact with many other scientists during the Springboard conference. “I hope to build on these further into new research collaborations,” he says.  

And it’s clear that all the new collaborations have brought other benefits to Ken’s working: “I have learnt to be a good team player,” he says. “And I’ve become better at fulfilling my commitments to teams, based on mutually agreed work plans and time schedules.   

“I have also improved on my writing skills and confidence, which made it possible to get our work published in high-impact journals.” He also says he has used his CONNECTED experiences as key elements of work promotion applications.  

Looking to the future of the network, Ken says: “The CONNECTED Network is a big platform for learning, research and intellectual discourse among scientists. It can help strengthen North-South collaborations to develop workable solutions to our common problems in plant health – leading to enhanced food security and improved livelihoods, especially in developing countries.”