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How research can influence policy decisions

Friday January 30 2015

A view of Nairobi City. Almost everyone I know in Nairobi has been robbed or mugged or knows someone who has been robbed or mugged in the past year.  FILE PHOTO |

A view of a section of Nairobi's city centre. Almost everyone I know in Nairobi has been robbed or mugged or knows someone who has been robbed or mugged in the past year. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The African Institute for Development Policy (Afidep) and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) UK will host a symposium and training exchange in Nairobi between February 9 and 12, 2015.

The symposium brings together researchers, communications professionals, and policymakers to discuss emerging issues in the utilisation of research in government decisions, also referred to as ‘Research Uptake’.

Focus on the role of research in government decisions has increased in the last two decades, partly driven by concerns that funders have had no returns on their investments in generating research.

Given Africa’s limited resources for development, basing development decisions on research evidence is critical to ensure areas with most need get the requisite resources.

Therefore, holding this conference in Africa gives the continent the impetus to put efforts in place that ensure research plays an important role in governments’ development decisions.

With this conference, Africa can consolidate its past and ongoing efforts in ensuring research use into a momentum for development decisions.

Funded by the UK Government, the conference will comprise two main events — a symposium that will discuss research uptake, and a training exchange that will feature various training workshops in the wide-ranging skills required for enabling research use.

The symposium will feature sessions such as exploring barriers to research uptake, the role evidence synthesis plays in policy formulation, technological innovations, media and communications in research uptake, among others.

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In the session on exploring the barriers to research uptake’ experts will share their knowledge on the factors that hinder research use by government officials. This will be followed by discussions with conference participants, particularly on ways of overcoming identified barriers.

The session on the role evidence synthesis plays in policy formulation will feature leading research and policy experts who will share their experiences and opinions on the kind of research that gets used or should be used in government decisions.

Some experts will be of the view that the kind of research that should inform policy should include findings from many different studies, and not just one, whereas others will illustrate the view that single studies can still, and do, inform government decisions.

The session on technological innovation, media and communications in research uptake will showcase a variety of emerging technological innovations and skills in enabling and supporting research uptake by governments.

Another interesting session will be on research uptake case studies and country explorations— best practices and notable failures. This will draw from selected participant submissions to illustrate their successes and failures.

More information on the research uptake conference (the ResUp MeetUp Symposium and Training Exchange) can be found at: http://www.resupmeetup.net/

Dr Eliya Zulu is the Executive Director, African Institute for Development Policy

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