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 process is a narrative” – audio recording

September 16, 2008

In this audio recording, Dr Temba Masilela from HSRC shares his perspectives on the problem of ‘evidence-based policy-making’ speaking about policy processes in South Africa. Having worked as a policy advisor and journalist and prior to this been an exile in Kenya, Temba speaks about how we should approach policy not just in terms of research, but as a narrative; it needs to be contextualised.

Dr Temba Masilela speaks on the opening panel at the Power of In-Between conference

Dr Temba Masilela speaks on the opening panel at the Power of In-Between conference

Taking an example of xenophobic attacks in South Africa, he asks what are the issues and imperatives underlying what happened – migration, crime, poverty, competition for resources? People see different narratives and framings and we need to analyse policy based on this.

Temba outlines a definition of the public policy process: “it’s a narrative about the authoritative allocation of values and resources”. It’s a narrative because it’s a story with many questions and answers:

  • It has particular context, actors, relationships, plot and perspectives
  • It is a story about why, who benefits, how should it be done, who bears the consequences and costs?
  • It has an ending, happy or sad
  • It is interactive, iterative and about engagement
  • It has a history to it, a present and a future
  • It requires some suspension of disbelief as well as trust that it is beneficial and will result in desired outcome

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Why we do what we do

September 16, 2008

Mohamed Motala, Executive Director from the Community Agency for Social Enquiry in South Africa reflects on the importance of the “why” question. He argues that we should continually ask ourselves why we do what we do in regards to public policy issues.
Intermediaries can discuss who they are and how they do things, but they need to first address why they do what they do.

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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.

Uncovering Open Access: seizing the moment and making it work for you – experiences from the ground

July 22, 2008

Led by: Martie van Deventer, Head of Information Services Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CISR) South Africa

There is extensive coverage and discussion in various disciplines and the literature regarding open access. The open access movement is supported and advanced by a wide range of interest goups and activities such as national and international organisations, the academic community, governments and publishers. While open access is gaining strength and popularity as the new model for dissemination of information, there are still many unresolved issues particularly in its application. This session covered challenges and rewards in this area and focuses particularly on the implementation of Institutional Repositories and the development of publishing models.

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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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Research brokers and intermediaries in the Agriculture Sector

July 21, 2008

This was a really great session which took me well out of my comfort zone in terms of the subject area. Initially I felt a bit like a fish out of water but in the end I came away with a lot to think about in terms of the varied roles intermediaries play.

We heard about two interventions each seeking to capture, re-package and share information relevant to farmers and rural communities. James Nguo of the Arid Lands Information Network, Kenya and Mary Mbekani of the National Small Holder Farmers Association of Malawi described their work developing projects with a strong community focus using farmers associations and other social networks both to gather and disseminate practical knowledge and learning. Gracian Chimwaza, of ITOCA (based right here in Centurion) also touched on this very grassroots level engagement but also spoke of their work to improve research and policy processes through availability of information at an academic level by improving journal access among other things.

Much of the resulting discussion focussed on appropriate and ethical ways of engaging with local communities. Read the rest of this entry »