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Researcher policymaker: A missing bridge?

[Editor’s note: This post has previously been published at GDNet blog. GDNet has been a DFID-funded programme run by the Cairo team of the Global Development Network, which has recently been closed. Since 2001, GDNet aimed to help researchers from developing and transitioning countries and support their work to have a greater global impact. P&I itself received GDNet supports in its origins. Thus, we would like to contribute to keeping alive GDNet’s legacy by republishing some interesting reflections shared by its team and different guests authors.]

 

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.

From a pure researcher perspective, John Siegfred Magalaya Shilinde (Moshi University) talks about the challenge of data accessibility to research in developing countries (watch video). In addition to the scarcity of reliable, less costly sources for literature, southern researchers also have a hard time accessing research facilities to conduct their studies (e.g data analysis facilities).

On the other hand, John argues that policymakers’ agendas, interests and priorities are usually unknown to researchers, and accordingly different from researchers’ interests. John thus suggests that researchers need different ways to reach and influence policymakers with their research findings and output.

Eme A. Dada was an interesting participant; as she walks that fine line between being a researcher herself and a policy advisor, as a Senior Economist at the Office of the Chief Economic Adviser to the President of Nigeria. Dada talks to us of challenges from both sides (watch video). She explains that researchers mainly suffer from challenges of unavailability and obsoleteness of data, in addition to lack of funding opportunities. On the other hand, she argues, policy makers (PMs) also have a hard time finding relevant research to their pressing issues, and most of the locally conducted research provides rather broad findings.

So what does she think needs to be done? Dada believes that there should be more collaboration between researchers and PMs over common issues of interest.. In other words, COMMUNICATION!! Researchers need to know what PMs want, and PMs need to realize what researchers are capable of doing.

Interested to hear more on research communication challenges from southern researchers, check out:

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

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