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24 September 2018
Defining the Field


Research uptake: Can Africa get it right?

In his annual letter for 2012, Bill Gates restates a previously made point that innovation is the key to alleviating poverty and improving the world. By using modern tools such as seeds, vaccines and AIDS drugs, he says, “impressive progress” has been made.

How “impressive” has progress been, say, in the AIDS community? The outlook is generally pessimistic, but in certain pockets of the continent great strides have been made in reducing infection rates and improving and prolonging lives as a result of solid science having found its way into policy.

A good example of effective research uptake is the mother-to-child-transmission studycarried out at the Africa Centre in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province some six years ago. Research seldom finds its way into policy quickly and this study was no different.The findings were adopted into government policy in 2010. They have also been adopted as policy by the United Nations.

A team from the University of KZN carried out the highly regarded Mamanengane (meaning “mother and child” in Zulu) research project.

The study found that exclusive breastfeeding up to six months (as opposed to adding other fluids and solids) significantly reduced the transmission of HIV from HIV+ mothers to their infants. This resulted in the issuing of new breastfeeding advice guidelines, which had previously advised bottle-feeding for HIV+ mothers. This is still supported in some circlesand may hold true in the suburbs of the global North, where piped water is a given. But in parts of rural South Africa where less than 60% of urban and only 11% of rural families have access to piped water in their homes, the study showed that infants on breast milk fared considerably better.

Quality assessment and assurance: Sound evidence for sound policy-making

A natural concern for university administrators, university stakeholders as well as funding agencies is the assessment and assurance of research-quality. They need to ensure that the evidence that is presented is academically sound.Trust in the research community to a large extent depends on sound quality assurance and assessment processes. Such activities inform funding decisions for projects, teams or even universities, the appointment of researchers, career advancement of researchers and crucially - what is published and disseminated.   And when the research evidence is specifically directed toward influencing policy it has to be properly contextualised, relevant and accessible,  in order to have the research findings taken up.

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Linking Research to Policy and Practice: assessing the strength of evidence

The focus of Research Uptake is on ensuring that research is taken up in policy or practice. The quality of research is therefore very important, as is the extent to which the research is grounded in and contributes to the broader body of evidence in a particular area. The cost (human and financial) of making policy or practice recommendations that are not supported by the overall body of evidence can be high.

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Shifts in science policy, the new university, and its role

This is the last blog in a series of five which review essays that together comprise a literature review on Perspectives and themes in knowledge utilisation, conducted for the DRUSSA programme by CREST at the University of Stellenbosch. The other blogs, with links to the essays can be found at the bottom of this blog. The review, which will soon be coming out in book form, will appeal to students, academics, policy makers, communication practitioners and those involved in the field of Research Uptake.

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DRUSSA Handbook Series Essay 2 Traditions of Knowledge Utilisation and the most influential models

Research evidence can inform policy and practice in a variety of ways and through a number of different channels. An essay  by Dr Sara Grobbelaar and Dr Nelius Boshoff of CREST at the University of Stellenbosch discusses some of the models and  theories in this vast field, and this blog provides a outline of the areas discussed.

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DRUSSA Handbook Series Essay 5 Science Communication – an introduction to the theory and trends

This blog, based on a paper by Marina Joubert of the Centre for Research on Evaluation Science and Technology (CREST)  discusses Science Communication and its role as part of Research Uptake.

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DRUSSA Handbook Series Essay 4 Stakeholder Engagement: a recipe for successful Research Uptake

Stakeholder Engagement can play a critical role in ensuring that research is taken up in practice. It provides a comprehensive and holistic framework for identifying and engaging with key members of participant groups and target audiences.

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Knowledge, practice and policy: Some definitions

The concept paper that emerged from last year’s K* conference, Expanding Our Understanding of K*, contains some useful definitions. These are significant for DRUSSA, as we work with our 24 partner universities to strengthen institutional capacity for Research Uptake (RU) and Research Uptake Management (RUM). An enabling environment, together with mechanisms to accommodate and advance RUM are necessary if professional Research Uptake Managers are to get on with the business of getting research into use (see Building institutional capacity for Research Uptake). For our purposes, it is therefore necessary to translate and contextualise the K* thinking into the RUM discourse.

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Part 3: Research Uptake Policy series: Key heuristics, metaphors, theories and frameworks

In Part Three of this  four-part “Research Uptake: Knowledge to Policy” blog series, Dr Sara Grobbelaar, DRUSSA  Researcher at CREST, considers two frameworks through which policy analysis can be done - Policy Networks and Communities, and Institutional Analysis and Development.

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K*: One year down the line

It is now more than a year since a group of knowledge practitioners from all over the world and from a range of sectors gathered in Ontario, Canada, for the first K* conference. Experts in the fields of knowledge brokering, knowledge management, knowledge transfer, knowledge exchange, knowledge translation, knowledge mobilisation and others met to find common ground on the scope of the knowledge field and to find ways to avoid its fragmentation and the duplication of resources.

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What is Research Uptake Management?

Research Uptake Management (RUM) is an emerging university management field with a practical, cost-effective and sustainable approach to getting research into use. It requires specialist individual capacity, aligned organisational structures and strategic management processes to optimise conditions for the dissemination, uptake and application of scientific evidence.

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K*? What are they talking about?

Much debate has been going on in recent months among intermediaries in the research and policy arena about what exactly is meant when we talk about knowledge brokering, knowledge management, knowledge mobilisation, knowledge translation and knowledge exchange. To bridge gaps in understanding, United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH) Knowledge Broker Alex Bielak coined the term K* (or KStar) as a catchall to describe the work and workers in the field.

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Development research and uptake: In search of better governance

Development research aims to inform evidence-based policymaking and engage society to ensure accountable government. By advocating development research outcomes, researchers aim to influence policymakers to adopt policies that will unlock economic development potential. And discovering new options for growth and finding new pathways towards achieving equity can empower the marginalised. In other words, as Fred Carden says, development research has better governance as its goal.

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Defining Research Communication

altaltIn 2010, the DRUSSA partners did a scoping study that served to inform the nature of the programme as it stands today. The Communicating Research for Utilisation scoping report defined research communication as follows:

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Policy is more than mere legislation

altaltVery early on in my career as a journalist, I discovered the value of making friends with the boss’s secretary and the switchboard operator. That is the grail along which you will have your calls put through and the appointment book opened. The same principle can hold true when trying to bring your research to the attention of policymakers.

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What is Research Uptake?

There are many terms used to describe the processes by which knowledge generated through research finds its way to those who need it—be they practitioners (health workers, farmers, engineers, community workers) or policymakers in government and other agencies. The terms “research communication”, “research dissemination” and “research utilisation” (or “research into use”) are familiar in the university and development research sectors.

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