|DRUSSA Universities Track Cases of Engaged Research|
|Monday, 18 January 2016 13:01|
As one of the results of the DRUSSA programme member universities are fully aware that effective Research Uptake isn’t something that is added on to the end of a project, should time allow. Research Uptake can be “built-in” to the research process from the very start. It involves identifying external stakeholders who need, can relate to, adopt and utilise research findings; building reliable channels of engagement and communication with them; and getting the language right. Sustainable partnerships can grow from such positive experiences, making Research Uptake even more effective in subsequent projects, as well.
This holistic approach not only encourages research user buy-in, but, crucially, improves the research and establishes trust that can serve researchers well in the formation of future partnerships and future projects.
Demonstrator Research Projects
In every university there is ground-breaking research going on that is highly relevant to a range of external audiences, and DRUSSA partner universities have identified specific projects to follow the influence of how new or strengthened Research Uptake managements systems can maximise the chances of research being taken up by end users. We call these showcases “Demonstrator Research Projects.” They are examples of some of the most innovative developmental research being undertaken at each DRUSSA institution, and ones where new strategies, processes and skills can all come to bear in heightening external engagement with the research.
Research Uptake and Developmental Research
A key phrase here is “developmental research.” The Demonstrator Research Projects span the disciplinary spectrum from Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) to Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (AHSS), highlighting the fact that there is developmental potential in all areas of research. An uptake-oriented research process can make a real difference to communities, policymakers and enterprise and in the universities there are good AHSS and STEM examples to highlight.
University of Buea
At the University of Buea, an on-going project led by the Department of Linguistics focuses on the culturally-rich but highly endangered system of Bafut royal ‘honorofics’ (a title or word implying or expressing high status, politeness, or respect) By engaging with the Bafut population to conduct the research (by collecting audio and video testimony regarding the use of honorifics in ancestral songs, palace ceremonies or conversations among and between non-royal and royal speakers), researchers are documenting who knows and uses the language form, how and in which contexts it is used, how it is inherited, and how it varies across age groups, genders and royal and non-royal classes and what it reveals about the ways of thinking. The University ensures that it is engaging with these “human subjects” not only as a source of knowledge, but also as stakeholders. To cycle research findings back into the community, researchers engage with traditional media, lead musical performances, and conduct community-wide games and quizzes that draw in several generations. The act of engaging with the project, as well as the research itself, plays a revitalising role in the community. That cycle can build trust, generate new working relationships between academic researchers and community members, and, in time, can help improve the research itself.
Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST)
At Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST), the Department of Gender and Women Studies leads on a project with the express aim of strengthening community ties with research and training. The researchers have found that female adolescent reproductive health issues are dynamic and complex, and that to collect data requires them to establish a high level of trust. The implications of this research can be far-reaching – they can influence sex education policy, secondary school retention rates, and sexual health policies among all age cohorts. The diverse application of the research mandates a strong stakeholder engagement process with a range of ministries, community institutions, schools and more. But it also mandates a strong uptake-led research process to ensure researchers are able to understand underlying issues that adolescent girls face in the first place. MUST is not only developing uptake strategies that engage the girls in ongoing research, they are developing strategies that strengthen the research.
University of Mauritius
The University of Mauritius’ chosen Research Demonstrator Project in the Faculty of Agriculture aims to provide simple and effective decision support tools for farmers to adapt to climate variability and climate change. This requires data from local farmers to inform researchers as to local growing conditions and weather events that impact their livelihoods, and also requires research findings to be applied by the farmers themselves. It is a positive environment for stakeholder engagement, as the farmers have been involved from the conception of the research topic. The University tells us that “key target groups and beneficiaries were identified using a stakeholder matrix and are partners in the implementation process. The evaluation of the research results (namely, the developed model) will be done by the farmers, while the extent of the uptake by farmers will be done by the researchers, in terms of the number of farmers changing their production patterns and methods, as well as the degree of change in production.”
Developing Best Practice
The Research Demonstrator projects showcase research, which, by engaging with stakeholders in a meaningful way, is able to not only strengthen the research, but also increase its impact on communities, policy and broader development objectives. The “Demonstrator Research Projects” serve as case studies and tests of how uptake is improved by engaged research. These are to serve the DRUSSA universities as useful on-going examples of how sharing good practice in Research Uptake management can influence and strengthen the research itself.
Liam Roberts, Acting Programme Manager (DRUSSA), The Association of Commonwealth Universities