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.

Read more of this post

Advertisements

What challenges for development research in Latin America?

This post was written by Carolina Zuluaga, Assistant Editor Vox.LACEA

Is the Latin America and Caribbean region carrying out more research than in previous years? Are there more resources for research available in emerging countries? Is public policy more consequential with research results? The LACEA and LAMES 2013 invited session “Development Research Challenges”, sponsored by GDN, seeks to find the answers to these interrogations.

In order to make an outline of the challenges ahead for development research, globally and within Latin America, it is important to understand where we are now and what has been done in the last few years. In his intervention, Francois Bourguignon (Paris School of Economics) discusses how economic and development research has done a shift from a Macro to a Micro point of view in the last 15 years. Although Micro focused research brings unique elements to a given study such as access to micro data and to details of the behavior of agents, the universal perspective of things is lost. Hence we are losing analysis of Macro topics that are essential to economic research and that help us to pose better solutions to current problems. As a matter of example, in the case of education, we could say that we are educating more people through more effective programs, but deploying efforts in this direction does not mean we are creating more jobs for those people! In which case, it is not an all-inclusive solution to the problem but rather, we are just tackling one part of the problem. For Bourguignon, one of the main challenges for economic research is to go back to including the “big picture” in our analyses; combining thus the two lines of research, Micro and Macro.

Alan Winters (University of Sussex) highlights the impact that globalization has had on research topics in the last 10 years, going from migration and inequality to trade and investment. But recently, he says, another topic is becoming of great importance: Productivity. Future research needs to focus on productivity, especially on issues related to the environment, industrial policy and regulation, allocation of resources, infrastructure and the role of the government upon all these issues.

Read more of this post

South-South cooperation efforts within “Spaces for engagement” program

By Leandro Echt, Coordinator of the Influence, Monitoring and Evaluation Program at CIPPEC

Every two years, the Colombian Confederation of NGOs (CCONG) holds the National Conference of NGOs in partnership with regional NGO Federations. This year, CCONG and the Caldas’ Federation of NGOs brought the “V National Meeting of Colombian NGOs: social innovation for development, an analysis from the NGO” to Manizales, Colombia.

Encuentro-Nacional-de-ONG-2012-090-e1380738795998The meeting aimed at creating a space for dialogue and reflection among leaders and representatives of social organizations, as well as other stakeholders in Colombia. The dialogue was targeted at the importance of having an innovative social sector to contribute to the peace process, governance and territorial development.

Established throughout the meeting, a South-South Cooperation Forum aimed at knowing the trends of South-South cooperation in Colombia, sharing experiences of South-South cooperation between NGOs and other stakeholders, analyzing South- South cooperation as a modality to be strengthened among NGOs, and identifying realities, challenges and opportunities for cooperation among NGOs.
CIPPEC was invited to participate in this Forum and share its experience within the program “Spaces for engagement: using knowledge to improve public decisions (SFE)”. A joint initiative between GDNet and CIPPEC, SFE encompass­es six years of intensive work (2008-2013) that aimed at creating diverse spaces of engagement with the participation of researchers from policy research institutions (PRIs) that conduct or use investigations to influence policy, policymakers, and/or decision making processes. For that purpose, it sought to work with a Community of Practice (CoP) gathering selected researchers from think tanks and research institutes, as well as policymakers who are strongly committed to improving the use of development research in policymaking in Latin America. The program also seeks to promote South-South cooperation on linking research and policy between Latin America, Asia and Africa.

Read more of this post

Building the capacity to produce policy relevant research

As development and the global economy evolve in the direction of knowledge, the ability to communicate research effectively is essential; one of the means to ensure that, is the connections between researchers and policy makers from one side and between researchers themselves from the other side. Policy makers turn primarily to international organizations to obtain credible information, even though, local organizations and southern researchers may have the capacity but are often not able to engage in cooperation with policy makers. GDNet gathers the views of members of the development community who either have first-hand experience of overcoming the barriers faced by southern researchers or that working towards promoting southern knowledge.

Professor William LyakurwaAERC former Executive Director, stresses on the urgent need of conducting the researchers’ work to policy makers since they are considered as the end users. Further, researchers should get engaged into policy making to better understand the output of the research papers to apply it effectively in the policy content.

Watch Professor Lyakurwa’s interview and learn more about the work GDNet is doing to support Southern researchers and help their research travel further to reach policymakers; through capacity building programs.

A leap for generations!?

When senior researchers and younger ones work together they complement each other; since the latter have the enthusiasm, energy and the skills, whereas the senior researchers have greater experience which they can share with the young. Young researchers do not have the eye that can catch on the most important issues that society faces.

According to Wafik Grais (Viveris Mashrek), there is a need to foster these connections between both generations to make use of the strong points of each. In addition, combining between the skills, enthusiasm and expertise will deliver the best outcomes, and he stressed that this connection can be promoted by GDNet.

What does it take for researchers to be heard: Research competitions

Promoting Southern voices is at the heart of our work at GDNet. It is no secret that southern researchers struggle to communicate their research and have their work influence polices, and that’s exactly where we step in. This is NOT another post emphasizing the challenges facing southern research! It is, however, an example of what we aspire for research in the developing world to reach.

The winners of GDN 12th Annual Conference Awards & Medals competition, two Philippine researchers; Jeremaiah Opiniano and Alvin Ang from the University of Santo Thomas, Philippines, tell us what winning the competition added to their research. Ang and Opiniano use a tool called Remittance Investment Climate Analysis in Rural Hometowns (RICART) to advise the Philippine government on how to best use the billion-dollar remittances in local development.

Why did THEY win? In other words, what’s the X factor in their research?

When asked, Ang and Opiniano believe that their research is not only interesting, but also quite useful for communities. What ‘s more important is that it can be replicated and modified to apply to other communities around the world. In support of their argument, they found that other researchers were interested in their work. Researcher to researcher INTERACTION!

So how does winning help?

Winning the competition has indeed been a great step in communicating their research. Ang says that it opens doors to other funding resources as well as links with other researchers, both locally and internationally. It also gave them a boost of confidence in approaching policy makers. The attitude of policy makers itself is notably different; it shows more understanding and support and facilitates access to communities. Communities showed helpfulness and participation, and also provided them with access to information for research.

Read more of this post

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

Financement : Défi majeur de la recherche sur le développement

By Yasmine Abou Stait

Afin de relever les défis des chercheurs  du Sud concernant l’accès à l’informationset au savoir, GDNet a lancé  une campagne (Connect South) encourageant  les membres de la recherche sur le développement  et les communautés politiques à adopter une approche plus inclusive quant à la maîtrise du savoir des chercheurs du Sud.

Dans le cadre du débat, Maissa Chaibi, qui travaille à l’université de Sousse, a été interrogée sur la raison pour laquelle les chercheurs du Sud ne sont pas entendus. Autrement dit, quels sont – selon elle – les défis majeurs empêchant ces chercheurs d’informer et d’influencer le domaine politique.  En effet, son souci principal demeure le financement, ayant insisté sur le manque du soutien financier de la part des gouvernements aux chercheurs ce qui, à ses yeux,  les empêche de devenir plus efficaces. A dire que le soutien financier est ce qui compte le plus selon Maissa chaibi.

Regardez notre entretien avec Maissa Chaibi.

“Dissemination” is now the name of the game for southern research

Geographical distinctions are increasingly blurred and what were once local and regional problems have now become global problems. Thus the need is greater than ever for knowledge and experience from the South to inform responses to these problems.

Djavad Salehi-Isfahani (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, USA) made this clear in his interview. He explained that the demand is increasing on knowledge that is locally originated, especially that from the south.

He pinpoints the role that GDNet has made in generating a good research that is applicable to policy issues. This is what the Connect South campaign strives to draw attention on the value of southern research and the distinctive contribution the southern perspective can make to the knowledge and the understanding of complex issues.

At the end of the interview, he suggests that researchers share their research with policy makers and the public in order to make a difference and foster connections between researchers and decision-makers. Djavad Salehi-Isfahani wants to Connect South!

Can think tanks have the cake and eat it too? CIPPEC’s dilemmas in promoting electoral reform in Argentina

[This post is part of an ongoing project of a book on project to study the challenges involved in communicating complex ideas. The objective of this project is to gain a greater and more nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities for research uptake among think tanks and policy research institutes in developing countries. This post has been written by María Page, Coordinator of the Politics and Public Management Program at CIPPEC.]

By Flickr user CatelncBA (CC).

This is a piece about how communicating a certain cause using specific tools can create change on the public policy level. Discussing electoral reform in Argentina and how that can be achieved, we will take a closer look at how the Center for the Implementation of Public Policies Promoting Equity and Growth (CIPPEC), a local think tank, advocated for the change – the adoption of the single ballot voing system in Argentina.

In Argentina, we use the French ballot voting system: each political party prints, distributes and supplies its own ballots during Election Day. The system worked fairly well while there were two main parties of relatively equal size, territorial outreach and resources. But after the 2001 socioeconomic and political crisis, extreme party fragmentation rendered the voting system archaic, ineffective and inequitable.

Read more of this post