Reflections on the IFWF3 Research to Policy session
Effective dissemination of research findings is crucial for impact on the ground. However, in the CPWF, where research is conducted across six different basins, context and dynamics vary by basin.
Research needs to accommodate policy makers as early as possible, at the point of research agenda development, through the design of the project and its implementation. The monitoring and evaluation framework of research implementation must also evaluate the communication performances if the project wants to lead to impact development processes.
Integration of the key partners into the process is vital. Creating room for other partners, beyond just researchers, is needed to ensure effectiveness and greater reach.
Appropriate stakeholder platforms (including strategic allies and power custodians) play an important role in research dissemination and implementation.
Scientists should pay more attention to how they communicate their work. They should focus not only on substance or content, but much more on the style of communication. One relevant quote comes from Randy Olsen’s 2009 book entitled Don’t Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style, “…communication is not just one element in the struggle to make science relevant. It is the central element. Because if you gather scientific knowledge but are unable to convey it to others in a correct and compelling form, you might as well not even have bothered to gather the information.”
Some ways to improve the process of putting research to use are:
- Timing: It is critical that communication be timed in such a way that it does not affect the research and the direction in which policy can go.
- Make use of key actors in the community or civil service who can influence policy or the acceptance of findings. Traditional leaders are important in this aspect, as an example from Botswana illustrated.
- Platforms for bringing different stakeholders must be created.
- Enough resources to bring together actors must be made available.
- Use research methods that facilitate data gathering without jeopardizing research.
- Capacity building is important.
- Forge partnerships with actors including governments, NGOs and media who can do what you may not have the skills to do, e.g. disseminating findings through social media.
By Rhoda Mafemba