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16 September 2019
Three golden rules to get research into policy Print
Wednesday, 15 January 2014 00:00

There you are, at the end of months, even years of toil, ready to release your research into the world. You have checked and rechecked your facts, you have interrogated the robustness of your argument, the work has been reviewed. Every T is crossed and I dotted. You have even gone to great lengths to write an first-rate policy brief, one you are sure will knock the socks off the policymaker who will take your research on its journey into policy and, ultimately, practice. You are set to go. That simple. 

Not quite. In the real world, no matter how relevant and good your research and how freely accessible and open to evidence the policymakers involved, unless you understand the policymaking process, chances of uptake are slim. For one thing, unless the timing fits in with the political cycle, your research is likely to end up gathering dust on a shelf somewhere or find its way into the “Deleted Items” folder. Researchers’ work is painstaking and the research cycle generally lengthy, whereas policymakers work to short political cycles. It is, in fact, fairly rare for the twain to meet with fruitful results.
In her blog, Three golden rules for researchers when trying to inform policy, Nyasha Musandu of the Zimbabwe office of CommsConsult quotes the advice given by Dr Charles Griffin (Lead Technical Advisor of the Strengthening Institutions to Improve Public Expenditure Accountability’ Global Research Project) on how to bridge the evidence to policy divide. She points out that although change happens sporadically, moments of change are predictable. Secondly, she says, when change does happen, it happens fast. Thirdly, it is up to the researcher to demonstrate an understanding of the policy cycle.
The evidence to policy process is complex. At a Policy Dialogue event held in Jakarta late last year, it emerged that the problem is not so much that governments are opposed to evidence in policymaking, since policymakers are beginning to understand the value of evidence. It is more that there are so many researchers and other stakeholders clamouring to be heard, with opinions sometimes in conflict. This calls for careful interrogation of the process and a strategic approach to policy engagement.
Having said all that, success stories do abound across Africa. You need look only at the PLATFORM2013 case studies put forward by the DRUSSA universities to see to what extent Research Uptake is taking place across Sub-Saharan Africa. 
What has been your experience of research and the policy cycle intersecting? Would these three “golden rules” apply in the context of your environment?