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18 November 2017
Lessons Learned From Developing a University Policy/Strategy To Support Research Uptake Print
Monday, 12 January 2015 18:03

This article outlines the experience of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana in building policies and strategies to support Research Uptake (RU). It provides an overview of some of the challenges that African universities face in providing institutional support for  research uptake  and utilization activities and some insight into how these barriers can be overcome.

In early December 2014 the DRUSSA Leaders and Champions met in Cape Town to discuss  the progress that their universities have made with regards to institutionalising Research Uptake and lessons learned over the last two years. Amongst the presenters was V. A. Ankamah-Lomotey, Deputy Registrar, who discussed the experience at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana.

Introduction

Until the introduction of the DRUSSA Programme not much was known of the term ‘Research Uptake’ at KNUST although in reality some uncoordinated activities of research uptake and utilisation has been taking place within the institutions departments/ faculties and research institutes. Since the inception of the DRUSSA programme efforts have been made by the campus implementation team to raise awareness and develop strategy on the need for researchers to take their research beyond academic journals to the wider community of stakeholders and policymakers in particular. This blog outlines a few lessons learned in developing policy/strategy to support research uptake.

 

Lessons Learned

  • Institutional culture: we have come to learn through our efforts that our institutional culture and context had not been that which favoured and supported RU activities. Systemic barriers have posed challenge that we have to work round.
  • The need for a paradigm shift: we realise the need for a paradigm shift from a teaching oriented system to a research focused one. Except where academics desire a career progression their main preoccupation has been on teaching despite the fact that their core duties include teaching, research and community service.
  • Low level of appreciation for RU: apart from stating that research must be conducted as a matter of duty we observe that there is the need for support at the institutional level. We noted there is the need for in-depth understanding and appreciation of RU and RU activities by top-level management.
  • Government support: we draw a lesson from the fact that lack of government support for research activities in particular presents a number of challenges when advocating support for RU from top management.
  • Donor-driven research: a good number of completed and ongoing research is donor funded, and the donor rather than the universities have control/input towards uptake.
  • Lack of awareness: we noted the need to undertake a series of sensitisation activities to ensure top-management understanding of RU so as to generate interest and obtain the needed support from their limited resources.
  • Lack of budget for RU: we have learned that without adequate commitment of resources to support RU not much that is new can be done. The lean budget lines for RU are an indication of limited commitment for same.
  • Lack of incentives to support RU: researchers once made aware are enthusiastic about RU but inadequate institutional incentives are preventing them from making and applying maximum efforts to RU as part of research. Researchers want to know whow they will benefit should they engage in RU.
  • Engagement with policy makers: to facilitate RU activities the university’s engagement with policy-makers as well as other research active institutions must be strengthened.
  • Capacity building: Research active staff need to be trained on how to use policy briefs among others in to influence policy.
  • Science communication: we realise that lack of expertise in science communication is a hindrance to RU.
  •  The need to coordinate the scope for RU activities/initiatives (including outreach and community impact amongst others) during the early stages of RU advocacy as a possible win-win towards demonstrating the benefits and willingness of researchers to engage RU.
  • Fragmentation of research management activities: lack of a central coordinating point, the individualistic approach to sourcing funds/projects and the absence of a reliable research repository are worth addressing in the development of a strategy.
  • The greatest lesson: Change comes slowly with lots of systemic challenges. Whatever our peculiar situation we will not give up. We have taken a full course in Patience, Tolerance and Perseverance.

 

Making Progress

These are our experiences as an institution. We have learned over the past two or so years that the potential exists for the institution to make headway in developing appropriate policy/strategy to support research uptake to make it easy for research findings to find its way into policy and practice more efficiently, specifically enhancing effectiveness of policies for social and economic development. We believe that KNUST is not alone in this and that with our shared experiences the future looks bright.

 

NOTE: A summary of the three day Leaders and Champions meeting will be published in the next DRUSSA Digest due out at the end of January.


Vincent Ankamah-Lomotey, is the Deputy Registrar at KNUST

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