Sunday, 17 February 2013

Using research evidence to influence policy change

Despite the commitment of the Kenyan government to invest at least 1% of the GDP into research and development, we are doing a paltry 0.48%. What is worse is that we are not even putting the findings of the research that is generated by this process into use. In Kenya, the National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation invests nearly Kshs. 400 million a year to support research in science, technology and innovation (STI). The key question that remains unanswered is: How much of this research actually gets used, whether for policy or practice? While the jury is out on that question, our main concern is with a related question: How can researchers make research translate to better livelihoods and better futures for our people? 

The recently enacted STI Act (2013) commits the government to invest 2% of the GDP to research and has created a number of institutions to manage the research process. With this increased funding, the tax payers will be expecting better from the research community. The researchers will be expected to show in real terms the outcomes/impacts of their research. Publications are no longer enough. Patents are also not enough. More is demanded from the research community and we must be ready to provide it.

Public policy remains a key instrument in influencing development. This is mainly because policy not only shapes and directs the government’s development trajectories, but more importantly, it directs resource allocation and distribution. For researchers to make impact beyond the publications/patents, they will need to engage with and influence policy change. 

Influencing policy change can be a challenging and daunting task. There’s already a wide gap between research, policy and practice. This gap results from at least three issues namely: (i) Lack of understanding of the policy context/policy processes by the research community (ii) Weak demand for research in the policy community and (iii) poor supply of good quality, policy-relevant research. 

Join the Scinnovent Centre in supporting researchers to translate the findings/evidence into policy and practice. Check out our training course on “The Art of Influencing Policy Change: Tools and Strategies for Researchers”