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.

Are “South-South” interactions geographically restricted?

Southern researchers experience particular barriers to having their knowledge influence global debates on development. Publishing in international journal, in addition to putting together and sharing research ideas is often harder for them. Southern research institutes are less likely to have the communications capacity and budgets of their equivalents in the North so their voices can get lost online and at international events. 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 this video, Nader Kabbani (Silatech, Qatar) sheds light on some of the challenges facing researchers in the Middle East and the South in general. He argues that research clubs located in the South do not interact with each other, but with northern organizations instead.

Besides, the “South-South” interactions are much more elusive, in which people attending conferences in English or Arabic do not interact due to geographical restrictions, so there is a need to address different audience.

Learn more about the GDNet Connect South Campaign and watch this video

Interested to join us? Sign up to the Connect South Charter of Commitment and pledge how you will help southern research have a greater impact on LinkedIn

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

The challenges facing southern researchers in the Arab world

Development experiences from many Arab countries show that the achievement of development in different sectors depends on the practical level of knowledge and skills of the labor force available to those countries.  That’s why it is crucial to encourage southern research that can help the developing countries cope with the developed world, since it is the cornerstone in development where work force is trained to lead the social, economic, political and cultural changes.

Southern researchers experience numerous barriers to have their knowledge influence global debates on development. Thus, GDNet is focusing on solutions and ideas that help the development community to Connect South; it calls on development actors to pledge their support and re-establish their own commitments to southern researchers. Accordingly, the GDNet’s Connect South Campaign aims to advocate the value of southern research as well as promoting southern voices.

In this interview, Jamal Haidar (University of Paris I, Pantheon-Sorbonne, Paris) draws our attention to the three main challenges he has been experiencing as other southern researchers. First, it is extremely hard to access data from southern countries especially Arab countries. Second, there is a lack of funding in the Arab world to PHD students as well as young researchers to attend international conferences. Last but not least, he expresses his concern towards the issue that most southern researchers focus on the quantity rather quality of the research. Thus, he suggests that there should be some supervision on the quality of southern research in order to have more sound policy implications.

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


Cultural barriers to collaboration in Latin America

By Luis Ordonez

If we want to go beyond cooperation and start real collaboration among partners, we must be aware of the cultural aspects involved. While businesses recognized this a long time ago, the collaboration movement has only recently begun to catch up, learning some painful lessons along the way .

Some of the critical areas that hamper effective collaboration concern information handling, which is different in authoritarian and equalitarian societies; or the uses given to a certain technology (ITCs for example) in a verbal society, rather than an instrumental (written) one. When considering biases and perspectives, these cultural differences may help explain the success or failure of projects, even to the level of inhibiting collaboration among researchers.

Connect south Campaign

Connect South Campaign

Furthermore, in an increasingly technological and web-driven world, many matters regarding technology transfer and cultural in-breeding among the people involved must also become issues for analysis if we want to interact successfully. A culture for collaboration has to be developed through education and other socializing institutions for example, ‘family’, ‘neighborhood’ and so on.  But in order for those ‘new’ behaviors to be accepted as successful, they must show advantages when using them, as compared to results obtained through other channels in solving specific problem is specific settings.

How much we know about interactions among scientists in academic institutions, or between them and their institutional settings in the South as opposed to the North, and how these interactions are affected in authoritarian societies, like the Latin-American, may have a profound effect on our approach to knowledge management, and explain why, even when all parties involved are willing to achieve success, failure arrives i.e. from the lack of  understanding by part of the group of the need to comply with figures of authority by  the other participants, raised in an authoritarian milieu, when approaching ITCs as information “optimizers”. This also applies to the interactions between scientist and decision makers, who have to re-learn to socialize among participants when the team members come from different cultural environments.

In my opinion, and within the context of the Connect South campaign, these cultural barriers should be among the first issues to be raised, since they affects matters as simple as “who translates what”, or as complex as the way to present information to decision-makers that must “save face” in front of their constituencies, and therefore hampering success. An event on Cultural Barriers to Collaboration, preceded by team work on cultural characteristics of the research community, the decision making community and the “think-tanks” or similar “knowledge broker” organizations existent in the North-South extremes could be of great interest, if we are to advance to a better collaborative environment in order to mobilize knowledge from the academic community to the political world.

Luis Ordonez is President of  Fundación InterConectados in Venezuela.  Watch him discussing these issues in more detail (in Spanish).

GDNet to investigate southern research uptake: Perceptions, challenges and experiences

By Cheryl Brown

Connect South

Connect South

Every year, the GDNet Members survey gives thousands of southern researchers the opportunity to comment on GDNet’s services, and to share their experiences of the research process: from gaining funding, to accessing journals, to getting their research used. In the last two surveys, close to 1000 southern researchers gave their views on the challenges they face, the perceptions of southern research and the success they have had in getting their research used by development decision-makers.

This survey data has already been used to inform GDNet’s monitoring and evaluation framework, and inspire improvements to the services it offers, such as the new Thematic Windows. The findings also provided the foundation of the Connect South campaign, which GDNet launched earlier this year. Connect South aims to draw attention to the value of research knowledge from the South, the barriers facing southern researchers and encourage others to pledge their commitment to creating a more enabling environment for southern researchers.

The survey data is now being analysed and combined with a review of qualitative data, and peer-reviewed and grey literature to help GDNet create a clearer picture of the experience of southern researchers and the use of southern research and help us to generate new ways to take the aims of the Connect South campaign forward. The study is being led by Cheryl Brown, who advises GDNet on User Engagement and Outreach, with support from the GDNet Team.

We hope to find answers to a number of questions, including:

  • What are the most significant challenges facing southern researchers today?
  • Does the type of organisation in which a southern researcher is hosted affect which sources of research they use?
  • Which channels do southern researchers use for communicating their research?
  • What are the perceptions around the quality of southern research? And is the North/South distinction still being made?
  • To what extent is southern vs. northern research used by southern researchers?
  • Where is southern research having an impact on policy-makers and how does this happen?

GDNet’s Program Director, Dr. Sherine Ghoneim, sees the study as playing a key role in the Connect South campaign: “GDNet has been raising the global profile of southern knowledge since 2001 but the need for research findings from southern countries to be heard by decision-makers worldwide has never been greater. I’m confident this study will help GDNet, and others who share our commitment to supporting southern researchers, to identify new ways to help southern research have a bigger global impact.”

This is the first of a series of blog posts to be written during this study. We look forward to sharing with you our findings, conclusions and reflections along the way and hope you will let us know your views and insights in response.

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!

Good research hidden behind walls of subscriptions

Has the “peer reviewed literature” become as “peer ONLY reviewed”?

In an attempt to highlight the challenges that southern researchers face in order to focus on solutions and ideas that help the development community to Connect South, we had the chance to interview Saifedean Ammous (Lebanese American University). He explained that data availability is one of the most crucial issues facing all academic researchers especially the ones from the south. According to his explanation, the main reason behind it is the fact that online academic journals are hidden behind firewalls and subscriptions need to be paid for them.

In other words, peer reviewed literature has changed to become peer only review; in which only the peers of the authors get to see their work; whereas regular people, researchers or others who work in a related field of research don’t have the eligibility to access these research papers.

If this issue can be addressed in an efficient manner, and researchers opened up to make their work accessible, everyone will benefit; especially the researchers themselves because they will get a feel of the value of their work in the developing community.