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ODI/INASP Research Policy Symposium
Oxford
16 November 2006 - 17 November 2006
Overseas Development Institute (ODI), International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP)

Acknowledgements: http://www.odi.org.uk/Rapid/Events/INASP/


The ODI/INASP research policy symposium followed on from the CSPP and INASP's respective annual meetings. It brought together 20 partners of the Civil Society Partnership Programme (CSPP) with 55 members of the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Periodicals (INASP), from a diverse mix of organisations around the world. The two networks share a lot in common, and their purposes could be seen as complementary - while INASP works to make important research and information freely available in the public domain, the CSPP and RAPID are looking to get that evidence and research to be the foundations of public policy.

The first day included a series of overview presentations of the research-policy interface:

  • Dr Syeda Tanveer Kausar Naim - a consultant with COMSTECH, Pakistan, talked about the work she was involved with in reforming Pakistani higher education;
  • Duncan Green - Head of Research, Oxfam UK, presented his experience of using research to influence policy at Oxfam;
  • Nicolas Ducote - Director of Center for the Implementation of Public Policies Promoting Equity and Growth, Argentina (CIPPEC), described the key factors in play when looking to promote evidence based policy processes;
  • Buhle Mbambo-Thata - University of South Africa Library Services, spoke on evidence-based information practice (EBIP) in developing countries;
  • Dylan Winder - DFID, UK, talked about the extent to which DFID's policy is evidence based. …case studies about how people have used evidence to inform specific policy issues:
  • Dra. Concepción Díaz Mayans - Cuban Ministry of Higher Education, spoke on the influence of research on measuring research and innovation in the Cuban Universities;
  • Bola Fajemirokun - Development Initiatives Network, Nigeria, spoke on gender mainstreaming and realising women's rights;
  • Rashed Titumir - Unnayan Onneshan-Centre for Development Alternatives, Bangladesh, presented research surrounding trade negotiations and livelihoods;
  • expertly facilitated by Tony Dogbe from Participatory Development Associates in Ghana.
…an 'open mic' session where participants shared the lessons learned from their work, and discussed the emerging themes surrounding these issues.

…all pulled together at the end of the day by Andrew Barnett the Director for The Policy Practice, in Brighton, Brighton.

The second day provided an opportunity for participants to take part in three different workshops to learn about some of the tools for (i) understanding political context, (ii) research tools to generate influential evidence, and (iii) methods to ensure that local content reaches policy makers.

There was a feeling that this symposium contributed to participants' understanding by providing new perspectives on various issues with which they work everyday.

The main lessons shared in the symposium were:

  • A large amount can be achieved when your organisation is backed by influential political actors. To achieve this backing it is important to work to build trust, be aware of informal relationships and channels of influence among powerful figures, and to understand the main pressures which move them (e.g. globalisation).
  • It can often be useful to 'talk the language' of the policy makers and governments, and adapt your message to highlight those factors which are most likely to move them. However, this can sometimes be not desirable or even not possible as it may dilute or lose the force of your message.
  • CSOs must work hard to retain their independence in the face of seeking funding for their research: to do this, it may be necessary to bargain with funding agencies based on the fact that they need you to carry out the study, and be prepared to turn work down if it would not be possible to carry out a fair and unbiased job. Another way of enhancing independence is to look to diversify funding sources and other ways of bringing funds in (e.g. consultancy, training).
  • In contexts without freedom of information laws, it is important to form relationships and build trust. You need to patiently explain your purposes in order to get the required information.
  • Building up a reputation for solid research puts your organisation in a strong position, making it more likely that your message be taken seriously.
  • The timing of presenting evidence is extremely important. CSOs must make strategic use of policy making entry points, and other opportunities for enhanced influence.
  • Since politicians and journalists' timetables often mean there isn't time to prepare research after you have been invited for a meeting or an interview, it can be useful to have ready a stock of knowledge on important topics to 'take off the shelf' for these opportunities.
  • To fit your work around influential groups' timetables you may need to be prepared to target your activities to their way of working, for example carrying out training for the media at the weekend, or holding meetings with politicians late in the evenings.
  • For enhanced media impact it is important that academics/researchers have a unified voice over an issue.
  • When packaging research for the media it is useful to use narrative research and 'killer facts'.
  • In all cases it is important to consult with communities, to harness their understanding and knowledge of their own situation and use your research to amplify their needs and concerns.
Agenda with links to powerpoint presentations and workshop details
Full report with images (2.3mb) or text only (122kb)
Background
Symposium Outline and Agenda (59kb)
Invitation letter (356kb)

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