Subject: Factors affecting Health Research in Africa (4)
Two important aspects that seem to be missing from your equation are the
need to involve the end user in all aspects of the research process and how
research gets disseminated and used. This directly impacts the research
environment you describe. As you mention, there is usually little support
for research - often because potential users do not have ownership of the
research or the results remain inaccessible. For example research reports
(often very long) languish on people?s shelves because they are too long or
have not been translated into a format that policy makers and program
implementers can understand and use. In addition, there is need to involve
the end users from the initial stage of the research. They are important
stakeholders and will ultimately be the ones to use or not use the research
If they feel the research is useful to them and they have had input, they
will be more likely to use it.
The SARA Project at the Academy for Educational Development in collaboration
with USAID?s Africa Bureau has been working for 6 years to help ensure that
quality research and analysis gets used to promote needed changes in
policies and programs. We have worked with regional African institutions to
build dissemination and advocacy activities into planning the research
studies themselves from the very start.
We have found at SARA that transforming research results into useful formats
(syntheses, policy briefs, recommendations, etc) takes a considerable
investment in skills, time, and resources. In fact, dissemination and
advocacy activities linked to research findings takes at least as many
resources as the research itself. Sometimes a whole new set of skill areas
need to be developed - such as repackaging, proactive dissemination
strategies and advocacy skills.
I agree with Andrew Hobbs that research findings must be linked with policy
and practice, and that funders should insist on evidence that the research
will be used. But too often funders haven?t thought that far ahead. Will
these same funders be willing to increase their funding to include
dissemination and use activities? Everyone (researchers, donors,
governments, etc) needs to recognize the value of involving the stakeholders
and making research findings accessible to policy makers, and program
implementers and build the steps and funds required for this into the entire
process of their work.
Are you familiar with three publications from the SARA project that help to
address these issues? A recent publication Making a Difference to Policies
and Programs: A Guide for Researchers outlines necessary steps at each stage
of the research process to ensure that research results get used. In
addition, the SARA Project published An Introduction to Advocacy: Training
Guide which describes the step-by-step process needed to do basic advocacy.
We have also reprinted background document, Knowledge Utilization and the
Process of Policy Formation: Toward a Framework for Africa which reviews the
published literature on the role of technical information in the making of
public policy, examines more general models of the policy process, and
outlines a framework for rethinking the relationship between policy research
and advocacy. All three publications are available in French and English.
If you would like copies of these, please contact the SARA Project
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