The CEO Notes

Mustering scientific and policy communities for policy dialogue 

   

This edition focuses on information generated from a particular group of seminars and workshops conducted between February and March 2011.

 

The science seminars were held at Mafikeng and East London in partnership with North West and Fort Hare universities respectively. The government cluster workshops were held at the Reserve Bank to share with government officials results from studies conducted by scientists from the HSRC and various universities. These workshops were the HSRC’s contribution to the Human and Social Dynamic in Development Grand Challenge in the country’s Ten Year Innovation Plan.

 

The seminars and workshops were sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) as part of an effort to create spaces, structures, processes and platforms that enable access to research evidence and improve evidence-informed policy making. The aim is to mobilise the scientific and policy communities to collaborate for more effective decision making and policy dialogue.

 

The process of organising the seminars and workshops entailed increased interaction between the HSRC and the various government departments and cluster secretariats whose focus is social policy analysis and research.

 

These interactions also served to sharpen the HSRC’s awareness of the knowledge and evidence demands in policy development and implementation. They also increased the awareness among members of the government clusters of how the scientific community could be of practical value, thus strengthening the nexus between policy and research.

 

The seminars and workshops were a practical demonstration of knowledge brokering, that is the promotion of demand for and support of access to research-based information; and the facilitation of exchange and knowledge sharing among the spheres of research, policy and practice.1

They achieved several outcomes which are summarised below; the full report was submitted to the DST.

  • They enhanced policy relevant interdisciplinary knowledge sharing;
  • They showcased cutting edge research conducted at rural-based universities, thus stimulating ideas and consolidating research agendas and promoting collaboration. For example, one university used the information obtained from a seminar on migration to consolidate research on population and development, and begin a process to become a centre of excellence in demographic research on the continent;
  • The active participation of master's and doctoral candidates in presentations and debate on their papers promotes their interests in research careers and will hopefully add to the pool of new researchers.  The seminars revealed opportunities for research collaborations that will help forge closer, mutually beneficial relations between universities’ science councils.

The topical focus of the policy seminars was determined by a joint sitting of the Social Protection and Community Development cluster and the Human Development cluster.

Key achievements of the policy seminars were:

  • They created space for policy makers and researchers to have in-depth discussions and debates about both policy gaps and policy constraints, the theoretical underpinnings of various policy stances, and the practical ramifications of various assumptions;
  • They provided opportunities to showcase the utility and relevance of research for policy making and programme development;
  • They made researchers more aware of the imperatives and trade-offs confronting policy makers, and exposed researchers to the immediate policy and programme demands of policy makers.

These achievements were made possible by the calibre and diversity of the participants. On average, the seminars were attended by 45 participants and encompassed researchers from both universities and the HSRC, members of senior management in the public service, two parliamentarians, as well as PhD and MA students. The seminars were opened by Vice-Chancellors and the workshops by Directors-General.

1 Knowledgebrokers.org