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AFRO-NETS> Factors affecting Health Research in Africa (4)

Subject: Factors affecting Health Research in Africa (4)

Dear Eric,

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 

Renuka Bery
SARA Project
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