Researcher policymaker: A missing bridge?

Knowledge Café

Knowledge Café

It’s quite amazing the amount of time and effort that southern researchers invest to research their ideas and present them to the world, despite the numerous challenges they face throughout this path. And ohh the pride they take in that! The role of communication is to define how big that “world” is.. It could be anything from a desk drawer to an implemented policy.

In most developing countries, unfortunately, the odds are that most research ends up warm and cozy in an office desk drawer. Not to sound satirical, it’s no secret that developing countries are hardly “the place” for hearing out what the people have to say, let alone the researchers who go out of their way to not only add to their own knowledge but to contribute to bringing about change in their societies. With that said, it’s not quite safe to blame it all on bad communication now, is it?

This blog post is supposed to highlight some of the challenges that African researchers face in “doing” research and “communicating” it to inform and advice policy. Wrapping up our latest GDNet-AERC Policy Brief Training Workshop, we picked some of the participants’ brains regarding that particular topic.

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Tips to overcome research communications challenges

A successful researcher needs to be an effective communicator of his/her own research. This is why GDNet committed itself to help southern researchers communicate their work more effectively. Through its series of research communications capacity building training events, and in collaboration with research communication and media consultants, GDNet creates an opportunity for researchers to build their capacity and skills, improve their ability and increase their confidence in communicating their research to policy to maximise its uptake and impact.

But training researchers on research communications is not only about developing their communications skills. It is important that researchers deeply understand and analyse the political and social context in their respective countries before approaching policymakers. In this respect, we are keen to allocate time at our research communications training workshops for a brainstorming session. During this session, researchers think, share and exchange what they think are the challenges in their respective countries, and the tools and tactics they assess as successful and may help them to overcome those challenges.

Following up on our latest blog on the challenges of research communications, “Research uptake: a road hedged up with thorns”, we share with you some more interviews conducted at the latest GDNet-AERC Policy Brief which took place in Arusha, Tanzania, in November 2012.

In the video below, researchers talk about the challenges they face in their respective countries when it comes to approaching relevant policymakers. They also suggest some successful tactics that would help them and their homologues get their voices heard.

Below are some tips and tactis:

  • Organizing dissemination workshops that bring together researchers, policymakers and media practitioners
  • Taking part of informal events where policymakers are present
  • Making use of social media
  • Using media to reach a broader audience/ordinary public
  • Communicating research at an institutional level – researchers to liaise with their institutions/organizations to get their findings disseminated given that a researcher has more power as an institution

A word of advise to all our researchers: Do not shy away from knocking the doors!

Interested to hear more from southern researchers, watch the following interviews:

Research uptake: a road hedged up with thorns

Why do researchers struggle to communicate their research for evidence-based policymaking?

The challenges facing southern researchers in the Arab world

Good research hidden behind walls of subscriptions

Financement : Défi majeur de la recherche sur le développement

Research uptake: a road hedged up with thorns

“The road that goes from a piece of research to public policy is a winding, forked and blurry one” (Weyrauch y Selvood, 2007)

The goal of any research is to have an impact, and not to be kept in a drawer or forgotten on a bookshelf.
Wordle: Research Communications II

The global south does not lack robust economic and social research; a lot of it is being carried out with the intention of helping policymakers develop better policies for better development. Sadly, very little of that research achieves its objective mainly because it is poorly communicated to its intended target right audience.

Southern researchers experience particular barriers to having their knowledge influence global debates on development. Accessing development research and data, securing research funding, communicating research findings to peers and policy audiences, the way southern research is perceived and demanded are amongst the key challenges southern researchers face when informing policy. Besides, publishing in international journals is often harder for them due to their lack of access to the latest research necessary for referencing. It goes without saying that Southern research institutes may lack the communications capacity and budgets required to ensure effective research communication, compared to their equivalents in the North. GDNet’s own survey data also points to the dominance of northern academic practices making it harder for southern research to be seen on an equal footing.

In an attempt to highlight the challenges that southern researchers face and focus on solutions and ideas that help the development community to Connect South and ensure a more effective research uptake, we have been conducting a series of interviews with southern researchers who took part of GDNet Research Communications Capacity Building events.

At the latest GDNet-AERC Policy Brief Workshop which took place in Arusha, Tanzania, and as part of building the researchers’ capacity in research communications; we had the opportunity to hear from some of the participants about the challenges they face in their respective countries when trying to get their voices heard.

The following came out as significant challenges in different African countries:

  • Lack of interest expressed by policymakers in what academics produce on economic and social development
  • Crafting effective and simplified messages exempted of jargon and terminologies
  • Getting research published in reputable academic journals and newspapers
  • Lack of understanding of the value research has
  • Existing gender bias aspect in the development community (perception of research produced by women in some African countries)
  • Motivating media practitioners to listen to researchers and pitching stories out of academic research
  • Establishing a dialogue between academic researchers, decision makers and communication practitioners
  • Lack of accuracy of media practitioners when publishing research findings

Watch highlights from different interviews (English)

Watch highlights from different interviews (French)

This blog is part of a series of blogs on research communications challenges faced in the global south.

If you want to hear more from southern researchers, watch the following interviews:

Why do researchers struggle to communicate their research for evidence-based policymaking?

The challenges facing southern researchers in the Arab world

Good research hidden behind walls of subscriptions

Financement : Défi majeur de la recherche sur le développement