Policymakers engaging with an evidence base – audio recording

May 26, 2009

In this audio recording, Megan Lloyd Laney, Communications adviser in the Central Research Department, shares her perspectives on the problem of evidence-based policy-making.

Being asked to speak about policy making processes on behalf on DFID, she says, felt like a “scary deal”.

Research is not consensual but we need to look at different knowledge and narratives.  Within DFID itself, there is belief in engaging with an evidence base to inform policy, but in practice they are unable to.

Megan outlines some of the disablers and enablers to engaging with an evidence base:

•    Policymaking is “messy and grubby” – there are lots of factors involved – negotiation, the art of politics, institutional capacity to capture from all the different evidence.

•    People are too busy responding to national imperatives and regional programmes of support to engage with an evidence base.

•    DFID frequently changes policy narratives (e.g. sustainable livelihoods, natural resource development, and climate change). These changing labels disable the outside world from understanding and engaging.

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Open access movements in developing countries

September 16, 2008

Dr Buhle Mbambo-Thata, Executive Director from UNISA responds to questions raised at the conference about whether the benefits of open access are limited in developing countries. She stresses the importance of the open access movement for researchers in developing countries and argues that it can support greater access to local research. She talks about how institutions need to change and promote their own researchers work in-country rather than purchasing from elsewhere, and encourage researchers to publish in open access journals.

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Policy making as seen from “the belly of the beast”: audio recording

September 4, 2008

From her position at the “centre of power” or the “belly of the beast”, Dr Mateora Sadan, Senior Policy Analyst in the policy co-ordination advisory service within the South African Presidency shared her reflections on the nature of “evidence based policy making across the South African government system. This is the audio recording of her presentation during the opening session of the “Locating Power of In-between” conference.

Speaking openly and frankly Dr Sadan argued that there has definitely been a shift towards wanting to engage and utilise research more, but acknowledged that there is uneven use of research evidence across different departments. Dr Sadan cited the Department of a Social Development as a positive example of a department that engages with evidence, motivated she argued by their need to defend their decisions to the Treasury Department. However in other parts of the government system often people use research that supports their position, that might come down to basing decisions on one research paper.

Dr Sadan identified problems as lying with both researchers and policy makers: she questioned the communication style of some researchers, saying that within government circles some research reports are known as “doorstoppers” as they are so heavy and impenetrable; on the other hand she questioned the assumption that policy makers are actually able to assess and interpret information and apply it effectively. She then went on to identify some practical approaches to addressing these challenges.

Listen to Dr Sadan’s 10 minute presentation.
Read the blog of the session.

Intermediary influence

July 24, 2008

Joseph Banda from ZAMBART talks about the one thing that he’ll be taking away with him from the Power of In-between Conference. He shares a story from the conference about how an intermediary has had influence on anti-retro viral drugs in Zambia.

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How do research brokers and intermediaries contribute to evidence based policy making? Revisiting the hypotheses

July 22, 2008
Closing plenary session - Jane Ireri (AMREF), James Nguo (ALIN), Ananya Raihan (DNet)

Closing plenary session - Jane Ireri (AMREF), James Nguo (ALIN), Ananya Raihan (DNet)

I always enjoy the closing session of a conference. As I’m reflecting on what I’ll take away it’s good to find out if it’s the same – or the complete opposite – of the other people in the room. Here are some of the things that they were thinking.

  • being an information repository is not enough – intermediaries are part of the knowledge flow
  • intermediaries can’t be fully neutral – but this isn’t the end of the world
  • intermediaries can (should?) have influence at all levels – how are we connecting at the grassroots?
  • more work is needed on monitoring and evaluation – we’re putting all this work in but how do we judge our impact?
  • policy makers make decisions on the fly with a lot of information in their heads – how can we make sure that research is one of these things?
  • people were encouraged by the fact that funders had taken the time to come to the conference – it shows that there is a real interest in what we’re doing?
  • this was an invaluable networking opportunity

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Reflections on the first day of the conference

July 21, 2008

This ad-hoc session was sprung on participants at the beginning of day two but actually provided lots of rich perspectives and insights. Participants were given control of the floor to share their reflections on the previous day. Here are some of the other thoughts that emerged:

Its pretty complex out there and we need to connect:
The research policy arena has so many different players, levels and sectors. Are there other key players we should be talking to or talking about that are not in this room such as publishers? Likewise there are lots of different types of intermediaries – part-time, full-time. The similarities in the challenges we face mean we should be more connected, talk and give feedback to each other.

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Gender – research brokers and intermediaries in different sectors and contexts

July 21, 2008

Jenny began the session by framing the overall messages of the session about the particular significance of being a gender-focused intermediary:

1) Gender itself is a contested term and variously understood by different actors (from Southern feminists to northern donors etc)

a. Including a diversity of opinions about gender is not the same thing as being objective, and requires some political analysis of power, subjectivity and intersectionality of gender and other lenses

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