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18 October 2017
The DRUSSA Digest | Vol 5 No 2 | August 2016
Editorial and Contents

 

The DRUSSA Digest is published online at drussa.net and distributed electronically, four times a year. The Digest features articles about Research Uptake and Research Uptake Management (RUM) with a strong emphasis on the accomplishments of the DRUSSA universities, and the progress of the project. Please do forward this eDigest to your colleagues and suggest that they register as members of the DRUSSA Network.
 
Editorial

In this edition programme partner staff reflect on different aspects of DRUSSA activities undertaken with the twenty-two universities. On the whole, as Dr John Kirkland says, it will be years before the full impact of the programme will be apparent, but for now, Research Uptake is entrenched in the universities, in the jobs of many individual staff members, and is on the agenda in many sub-Saharan African regional forums, as well as capacity-strengthening and funding-support programmes.  How much is directly attributable is hard to tell, but the initial purpose of the DRUSSA programme was to be responsive to expressed demands and needs and so uptake has been good.

 

Karrine Saunders and Liam Roberts from the ACU write about direct legacies of DRUSSA, including an online Learning Resource that is a compendium of documents compiled for learning events and in response to the expressed needs of the universities. These have been curated and published on DRUSSA.net and will be further curated and kept permanently available as an open access resource on the ACU website.  The work done with another set of actors in the Research Uptake ecosystem, the users of research evidence for policy, have benefited from an intensive programme in the pilot run in Uganda and Ghana. Karrine Sanders and programme partners STEPRI-CSIR in Ghana explain the different elements.

 

The OSD Engagement and Communications team have produced all the Digests received by our DRUSSA Network.  Louise McCann reflects on the Research Uptake Communication campaign mentored training, Alison Bullen draws your attention to the wealth of stories on DRUSSA.net about successes, written by university Research Uptake communicators and Caite McCann explains what types of data can be gleaned from digital platforms.

 

The CREST team has led on the formal academic training strands of the programme and in this edition the first three of eight case studies based on the research undertaken by the M Phil DRUSSA bursary holders are featured. During the next month we will publish five more as they become available, and we will draw your attention to them, and lead you to them on the DRUSSA site in our September DRUSSA Alert.

 
We hope you find this an interesting read. Please do follow the links to the full blog version of each article on www.drussa.net for even more interesting reading. Please add any feedback or comments to particular features there. If you have any general suggestions or feedback we would be pleased to hear from you. Please email the Communications and Engagement Co-ordinator and the DRUSSA DIGEST Editor  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
 
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Contemplating the achievements of the DRUSSA Universities

To those of us in the DRUSSA team, it hardly seems five years since the project started. For those charged with the responsibility of making the project work in the universities it might seem much longer. A great deal of work has taken place during the period, and a great many of the university staff have changed positions. At least three of our champions have gone on to become Vice-Chancellors.


Has DRUSSA been a good investment of time and UKAID support? I’m tempted to follow Chairman Mao, speaking about the French Revolution, in arguing that it is too early to tell. The ultimate product of our efforts is not intended to be confined to better trained staff or new structures, but the raising of living conditions throughout Africa, facilitated by better take up of research findings. This is a long term investment.


Unlike Chairman Mao, our funders will not wait 150 years for their evaluation, so we must seek earlier indications. Our recent, third benchmarking exercise found these in abundance. Change is evident in virtually all of our partner institutions, in a variety of forms. Some report entirely new structures, offices and senior level appointments charged with responsibility for Research Uptake, others report new relationships between key officers, or the universities and their research staff. Most report that responsibility for Research Uptake has been added and incorporated into the jobs of research office administrators and managers.

Read the rest of the interview here

Dr John Kirkland is the DRUSSA Lead and Deputy Secretary General of the Association of Commonwealth Universities

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Digital Research Uptake resources at your fingertips

Over the five years of the Programme the selection of resources to support Research Uptake capacity strengthening has been ongoing, curated and published on DRUSSA.net by the Communication and Engagement unit, directed and run by Organisation Systems Design in South Africa. Karrine Saunders, the ACU's DRUSSA Programme Manager, takes us through the key resources and their availability in the future.
 
The DRUSSA Digest has been used as a vehicle to draw attention to resources as they were published, while DRUSSA’s Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn platforms have been used to draw visitors to the blogsite. In-person communication and promotion of the resource at key events has also played a significant role.The result has been a readership that has voluntarily registered to be part of the Research Uptake Network. The numbers have grown from a first edition readership of hundreds in June 2012 to thousands in August 2016. Analytics show that DRUSSA.net readers spend more and more time paging through the site as the cache of blogs and documents grow; in 2012 the average was a couple of minutes and in 2016 the average time has grown to over 7 minutes a visit. 

The staff that each of the DRUSSA universities assigned to strengthen their organisational capacity have driven the agenda and worked tirelessly – in what in some ways were uncharted waters - to improve the accessibility, uptake and utilisation of research. ‘Research Uptake’ is now recognised as a fundamental element of research being managed well. Twenty two universities and nine ministries took part in the programme deepening their practice and understanding of the complexities and benefits of evidence applying Research Uptake management skills to the evidence-based development research produced at the participating Universities.
 
Throughout the programme many workshops, discussions, dialogues, trainings and symposia took place and a wealth of learning materials have been amassed and curated. Much of it has been featured in the DRUSSA Digest and is available on the programme website, DRUSSA.net


Read more here. 

Karrine Sanders is the ACU's DRUSSA Programme Manager

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Strong indicators for the sustainability of Research Uptake in Africa

At this stage of the DRUSSA programme there is a tendency to focus our attention to questions of sustainability. Will the new Research Uptake expertise and skills be further embedded, and will the universities continue to support institutional research culture shifts? How will the universities’ adapted policy and strategy frameworks support Research Uptake in the medium- and long-term?
 
Happily, lessons from across DRUSSA’s five years give us strong indicators as to the sustainability and durability of research uptake capacity, systems and skills that have been built up over the course of the programme.  Key to sustainability are policies and strategies that support Research Uptake (RU). Over the period of the DRUSSA Programme universities have revised and updated RU related policies as well as produced strategies for implementation. In some cases new policies have been developed in order to include RU. All of these are available on DRUSSA.net and will be made available in the new digital Learning Resource.

Read more here

 
Liam Roberts is the DRUSSA Programme Officer at the ACU

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When Research Uptake Communications Comes Alive
 

The series of three structured and mentored Research Uptake Communications (RUC) training activities run by DRUSSA partner Organisation Systems Design over a  five-year period  for the DRUSSA programme culminated with a sense of a positive onward journey. 
 
A fitting place to begin a retrospective look at the RUC Campaigns is the 6 April 2016, the day fifty-three RUC course participants gathered in one room in Johannesburg, South Africa as part of the face-to-face element of the RUC2016 activity. It was a rare opportunity for this RUC community, who have networked digitally and only met at one previous event, to be in the same physical location.
 
It was an enriching and rewarding day. Why so? Because the course participants owned it, putting their RUC skills into use in multi-media presentations on fascinating development research projects that were aligned with the strategic Research Uptake mission of each of their Universities. By the end of the day we were all clued into exciting development research coming out of Universities across Sub-Saharan Africa that is already making, or has the potential to make a difference. Result! Research Uptake Communication in action!
 
Read more here
 Louise McCann is a consulting communications strategist and DRUSSA’s Research Uptake Communications coach  
 

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Towards an insightful understanding of the Research Uptake Landscape in SSA: The DRUSSA Case Studies series

Case studies have been produced from the DRUSSA- sponsored MPhil graduates’ dissertations and from research undertaken by the DRUSSA programme team. All of the case studies provide current insights into different aspects of Research Uptake in sub-Saharan Africa.
 
In a paper entitled Prioritising Scicom At NUST MPhil graduate Heather Ndlovu, a Research Uptake Communicator at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST), reviewed the research communication behaviour of NUST academics/researchers.

Theogene Nyandwi’s case study Research Utilisation: A Case Study From The University Of Rwanda provides insight into the extent to which research uptake and utilisation was practised at the College of Medicine and Health Sciences (CMHS) between 2004 and 2013.

 
Also at the University of Rwanda Samuel Mutarindwa studied research uptake (RU) at the College of Science and Technology (CST).

In a study of research collaboration at the University of Ghana Frederick Owusu-Nimo investigated, by means of a bibliometric profile, the research output of Ghanaian-affiliated researchers, and the extent and nature of research collaboration.
 
In her case study “Research Utilisation At The University Of Ibadan” Dr Eme Owoaje examined the issue of knowledge utilisation from the perspective of researchers at the UI. It explored how research is communicated at UI and identified various factors that influence RU. The findings will have implications for assessing RU processes at the university.
 
Dr Sara Grobbelaar and Dr Tom Harber studied RU mechanisms and practices that have emerged within a sample of 22 sub-Saharan African (SSA) universities in order to explore research uptake management (RUM) as a new field of specialisation in research management and to provide a rationale for why it is becoming increasingly relevant within the higher education sector, both inside and outside Africa.

 
Read the full blog, with links to the case studies here

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From our Tech Guru: Digital Platforms and reporting

Universities in the DRUSSA programme have actively been growing the presence of Research Uptake Communication material, in the form of stories about uptake of evidence-based development research happening at their Universities. An important element of that process is gauging the website-audience response to the digitally published content. DRUSSA.net site manager Caite McCann has some experience to share on digital platforms with a focus on useful insights for reporting. 
 

The Communications and Engagement unit of the DRUSSA project has, using a common digital platform, DRUSSA.net, worked with the member universities’ Research Uptake Communication teams throughout the project duration. As a result the DRUSSA.net blog site is a record of the work of these teams. Over five years DRUSSA.net has published hundreds of blogs, eighteen e-Digests, and hundreds of documents in the document index. The DRUSSA.net platform was designed so that relevant data could be drawn. We’ve evaluated and reported on the usage data every quarter, which has given us some experience to share. 

Digital platforms are great when you’re wanting to keep a geographically diverse audience up to date on activities and sharing experiences. Because they are not face to face though, it is not so easy to judge how effective they are – are people interested in what you are sending out? Do they find the stories that are shared on the blogsite useful?

These are issues all digital Research Uptake Communicators will face, and it’s good to be able to share some experience and basic insights that may be useful to you as you tackle digital reporting.



Read the full blog here

Caite McCann is the Information Systems Manager for OSD and the DRUSSA Programme 

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Working with Policy Makers

How research is undertaken, made available, accessed, applied and used is at the heart of Research Uptake. In order to address a range of developmental challenges research needs to be disseminated outside the academic domain to meet policy- and decision-makers needs for reliable evidence from science, technology and social science research. The DRUSSA programme piloted an approach to support capacity building for government staff to access and use research evidence. The purpose is to have university researchers and ministry advisors better understand and appreciate how and when research evidence can inform policy decision-making.
 
Two of the twelve countries in which DRUSSA universities are based were selected for the pilot. In Ghana the DRUSSA partners are the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (CSIR-STEPRI) and the University of Ghana’s Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER). The team is working with the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Food and Agriculture and Ministry of Trade and Industry. In Uganda the partners are the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST) and the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) at Makerere University. Here the team is working with the Ugandan Ministry of Education and Sport, Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development and Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries.

The initiative involved three main components including (i) policy symposia for senior policy officials (ii) placement of academics from universities/research institutions in participating ministries as Policy Fellows (iii) professional development courses on accessing and using science and research evidence for junior and mid-level policy advisors with the aim to support increased mutual appreciation and understanding of both demand and supply sides.

Read more here

Justina Onumah is a Research Scientist (Ag. Economist) at CSIR-STEPRI, Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (STEPRI), George Essegbey is Director at CSIR-STEPRI, Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (STEPRI) and Karrine Saunders is the ACU’s DRUSSA Programme Manger  

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Research Uptake Success Stories: a common thread

Critical to Research Uptake success, and one of the focus areas of the DRUSSA Programme, are the institutional support mechanisms that are available to provide support to individual research projects. These include policies and strategies that guide Research Uptake; support structures such as the Research office, Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Management Offices that identity research for uptake and manage stakeholders; and Communications and media offices that provide additional technical support in terms of writing skills, online accessibility of publications, events management and design. As a result of these support structures, Research Uptake activities have been strengthened.
 
The success of Research Uptake initiatives will hinge on understanding and engaging effectively with the relevant stakeholders, be they government officials, industry partners, communities, development organisations or the broader public. Many DRUSSA Universities have Innovation offices, such as the University of Mauritius’ Knowledge Transfer Office, NUST’s Research and Innovation Office and Kenyatta University’s Division of Research and Innovation . These offices provide support in not only identifying research for uptake, but also in managing stakeholders and providing knowledge exchange mechanisms.

DRUSSA.net has gathered many stories which reflect the importance of stakeholder engagement and how DRUSSA universities are managing their relationships with key audiences, and you can read more here

Alison Bullen is the DRUSSA Programme Content Writer

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