STRATEGIES AND TOOLS THAT FACILITATE RESEARCH UPTAKE
Sitwe Benson Mkandawire,
University of Zambia – 2013
Research uptake strategies and tools are like sharp kitchen utensils that can either serve us or leave us bleeding depending on how we handle them. Issues of research uptake and utilisation worldwide are equally like a war between researchers and research institutions versus the public, private and civil society sectors such as policy makers, NGOs and the industry. This is not a war of guns, bombs, blood and fire but that of attitude, ego, rudeness, habits, research communication illiteracy, negligence and ignorance.
Strategies in this article refer to deliberate plans or actions to achieve your research uptake and utilisation goals while Tools refer to specific guides, instruments or activities for implementing your general strategy.
The central task of all research institutions is to provide an environment in which one is able to discover, innovate, and initiate new knowledge that the world has never known and not act as mere platforms for research for the sake of research. The community can only know this new knowledge through specific strategies and tools for science dissemination. All research institutions are expected to use such a resource if their institutions are to be recognised by others and the international community. This is what Linda Cilliers in her article ‘Leveraging your institution`s research’ observed when she said “One of the smartest ways for a university to raise its profile is to use what many already have in abundance—research”. The crucial issue this article is trying to address is: how does the world and other institutions know about this already existing abundant research without appropriate strategies and tools for research uptake?
African research institutions’ capacity is a key resource for social change, innovation, policy makers, reformation and national development but it is under-resourced and under-utilised, and consequently not fulfilling its full potential. Currently, there are many research institutions in the world and Africa in particular that carry out different forms of research and science at different levels. Yet, science and research uptake by public, private and civil society sectors such as policy makers, NGOs and the industry is still a challenge. Research uptake challenges are equally at different levels. One of the major challenges is lack of strategies and tools or modalities of enhancing scientific research uptake. Many of these researchers and research institutions want to have their research, science, innovations and technologies up-taken by the end users. They do not have strategies, tools and means to do so.
Some research institutions have the strategies and tools that can facilitate research uptake but does not have effective and adequate means to reach to the end users. Many times, such institutions are those without specialised offices for research uptake as noted by Sara Grobbelaar in her DRUSSA blog article tagged ‘Building institutional capacity for Research Uptake’ when she noted “it is important that individual actors be enabled to become proficient in the management of Research Uptake (RU), efforts to get research into use will not come to fruition unless the institutional environment is conducive to such activity”. By extension Grobbelaar suggests that even if an institution has the necessary strategies and tools that can facilitate research uptake, they may not reach the end users without effective research uptake management. In most cases, such institutions bleed for not handling these strategies and tools well. The tools are not serving them. Institutions that adequately utilise research uptake strategies and tools have little to complain about research uptake in their communities because they make sure that whatever come out of research from their institutions is effectively utilised by those in need.
There are many strategies and tools for researchers and research institutions that can be used to facilitate research uptake by public, private and civil society sectors. These strategies and tools are summarised in ‘Sitwe’s Research Up-take, Communication and Utilisation Model (Sitwe’s RUCU Model)’.
Sitwe’s Research Uptake, Communication and Utilisation Model (Sitwe’s RUCU Model) is a practical tried and acceptable presentation of options, strategies and tools that can facilitate research uptake, communication and utilisation at a research institution or at an individual (researcher or scientist) level. Research institutions or individuals can choose either to follow all the options as presented with minor modifications or select options which they can quickly manage. The model presents three major issues:
(i) Options – that can be conveniently selected by individuals or research institutions to disseminate their research or science outcome for uptake by public, private and civil society sectors. There are twenty options and all these options are the same but some options have quick forces of uptake and utilisation attraction than others. Others can easily manifest quick outputs and outcomes for social impact.
(ii) Strategies – these are deliberate plans or actions that institutions or individuals can take for research uptake, communication and utilisation.
(iii) Tools – these are specific guides, instruments, mediums, modes and activities that research institutions or individuals can use for research uptake, communication and utilisation.
ADVANTAGES OF SITWE RUCU MODEL
(i) Sitwe’s Model has provided a practical foundation that would facilitate research uptake, communication and utilisation by the public, private and civil society sectors.
(ii) His model has found the inherent logic that underpins and hinders research uptake, communication and utilisation at institutional and individual level.
(iii) The random options provided where institutions and individuals can choose from provides it with a useful base for planning and devising research uptake, communication and utilisation strategies.
(iv) By giving specific tools, strategies and options, this model forces research institution and those involved in research to seriously think about their role in facilitating research uptake, communication and utilisation.
DISADVANTAGES OF SITWE RUCU MODEL
(i) Sitwe’s Model does not adequately provide possible risks to encounter with research up-takers in the field
(ii) The model does not adequately provide the exactly stimulus that would entice research up takers and their reactions
Research output is the basis for social change, innovations, and national development worldwide. Yet, research uptake, communication and utilisation are not easily attained. Every research institution and their researchers need to work consistently hard on research dissemination in order to stay afloat and see the show. We have never failed ourselves or our societies, but we have been delayed in some way and this is not failure because we always rise up again and again for the habits we built and the choices we made.
Sitwe Benson Mkandawire is a lecturer and researcher at the University of Zambia, Team Leader for the Research, Science, Media and Dissemination Committee of UNZA DRUSSA Implementation Team and Manager for the University of Zambia Platform for Research, Science, Technology, Innovation and Development at http://www.unzaresearch.org
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