|How KNUST makes strategic choices about which research to feature for uptake and utilisation|
|Wednesday, 15 April 2015 08:43|
Deciding which research to focus on to communicate solutions that could be taken up and utilized is now undertaken strategically. Courage Julius Logah from KNUST discusses how the university chooses which research to focus on and some of the challenges that communications practitioners face in discovering research that fits the criteria for uptake.
With the inception of the DRUSSA project, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) has, on the supply-side of research, been making efforts to communicate quality research that is of relevance to society in general and national development in particular. The aspiration is that it would provide context-specific scientific evidence for national policy formulation, implementation and evaluation which would in turn lead to building stronger policies and strengthen the role of universities in national development.
Selection criteria of research for uptake
To this end, the university has been progressively putting in place infrastructure and building capacity of selected staff towards institutionalising research communication. It has successfully been able to communicate relevant quality research through the university’s website and on the Research Uptake Campaign 2013 Platform. How did we strategically identify which research work was worth communicating?
Currently, the research communication team of the University Relations Office adopts two strategies to identify suitable research articles. The first strategy involves searching through the universities research repository to identify research with high potential for uptake. The following criteria are applied:
The identified research publications are forwarded to the DRUSSA Leader and Champion to be reviewed for appropriateness and relevance based on the above stated criteria.
The second, perceived more as a complementary strategy, solicits for research of interest from the colleges with the help of the DRUSSA KNUST Team representatives from the respective colleges of the university and using the university academic staff distribution list. The research articles received are put together and the selection criteria are applied, and checked with those found in the university’s research publications repository. The selected article is then sent back to the research communication team to be prepared for publication on the university research blog, and in some cases, the DRUSSA blog. However, the process is not without challenges.
Some of the challenges relate to the academic culture. This includes lack of cooperation and willingness of researchers to disclose collaborators and sources of funding. There is also a challenge in accessing timely research information from researchers, either voluntarily or when asked. The research enterprise is often perceived as an individual initiative and therefore there is a perception that no obligation can be placed by the university on researchers to provide information, beyond submitting their published journal articles as this is required for career progression (university appointments and promotions).
These bottlenecks make it difficult to get access to research intended for uptake, for research communication purposes. The result is that the team focuses on research that is accessible, and cannot yet consistently apply the criteria of relevance and quality in the selection of research to communicate.
Plans for improvement
The value of research communication to society, industry and the university itself cannot be overstated. This is particularly the case for a public university that is expected to undertake and contribute knowledge and innovations from its research and development enterprise for societal and economic development. The team is constantly re-thinking its strategies and improving its selection criteria and processes to make research communication support as efficient and suitable for the researchers who put their work forward.
Going forward, the team, with the guidance of the DRUSSA Champion and Leader, are considering ways of further showcasing the benefits of undertaking relevant quality research for national and or regional development (developmental research) internally, as well as engaging actively in communicating research findings. Efforts are on-going to find innovative ways of encouraging top-level management to get actively involved in the selection of research with potential for uptake. The most important strategy is to have put in place internal processes that incentivise researchers to participate and facilitate research communication initiatives in the university.
Richey C. Rita, Klein D. James (2005) Developmental Research Methods: Creating Knowledge from Instructional Design and Development Practice. Journal of Computing in Higher Education. Vol. 16(2), 23-38.
UKaid-DFID ( 2013) Research Uptake: A Guide for DFID-Funded research programmes. Last updated May 2013
Courage Julius Logah, (Systems Analyst) KNUST