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21 November 2017
Bridging the Gap between Research and Policy: the DRUSSA Fellowship Programme in Ghana Print
Friday, 25 September 2015 10:17

The DRUSSA programme has been working with academic institutions and government departments in Ghana and Uganda in order to link the supply and demand side of Research Uptake, through Symposia, Executive Education courses and a Fellowship scheme that places academics in government departments, allowing in-house government access to research expertise.One of the Fellows in Ghana, Dr George Adu, shares his experiences.

Dr Adu, from the Department of Economics at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, has been placed for six months in the Policy, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (PPME) division of the Ministry of Trade and Industry.  As part of his Fellowship plan he will conduct training on Applied Econometrics for Policy Evaluation and present two papers, one on “Determinants of Bilateral Trade Flows in Ghana” and another on “Sectoral and sub-sectoral effects of Monetary Policy in Ghana”.

The research papers will provide Ministry Officials with vital information on trade policy design, implementation and evaluation. The workshop will assist in building Ministry capacity in understanding economic research methods.  The fellowship also provides Dr Adu with firsthand experience in the policy making process and practice, which he will be able to use when training university graduates with the skills they needs in order to tackle successful policy design and implementation.

Nearing the end of his fellowship Dr Adu shares his experiences with us.

"A factor that is important in developing a good relationship with policy makers is a clear demonstration that you have something good to complement their effort and can be trusted to  to communicate sensitive issues"
Question:  Have you worked with policy makers before? Do you think it is easier to work with policy makers when you are embedded in the ministry/department?

Answer: My first experience of working in close contact with policy makers has been the time I have spent so far with the Policy, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Division (PPME) of the Ministry of Trade and Industry in Accra, Ghana as a policy fellow. On the basis of my experience I sincerely think that it is easier to work with policy makers when you are in close proximity with them. A factor that is important in developing a good relationship with policy makers is a clear demonstration that you have something good to complement their effort and can be trusted to  to communicate sensitive issues.

Question: What challenges have you found – both those you expected as well as any unexpected challenges?

Answer: Among other things, what I have realized as a major challenge of working with policy makers is their busy schedule. This makes it difficult to have much discussion with them to identify which areas they need research support.

Question: Having been in the ministry for a couple of months already, what is the general feeling amongst policy makers that you have come across about the role of research in the policy process as well as the role that they would like universities to play in the research/policy arena?
"policy makers are very willing to incorporate research evidence in policy decisions"

Answer: I think that policy makers are very willing to incorporate research evidence in policy decisions. Universities also have some feel that they have something to offer in policy planning, and evaluation. The challenge has been the lack of working relationships between policy institutions and the academia. Consequently researchers in universities and research institutes do not know the exact questions confronting policy makers and what answers they can offer. Research in universities is thus driven by intellectual fascination rather than quest to answer policy relevant questions. This makes existing research evidence in policy decision making much less relevant. A strong relationship between policy makers and academia is a good prerequisite in making academic research relevant to policy makers. This will make both universities and policy makers attach more importance to research.

Question: Have any of your expectations about working in the policy environment been challenged and if so, in what way?

Answer: I don’t think so. So far I have had smooth work at the ministry. I feel the impact has been great.

Question: If you were asked to identify two or three challenges that face universities in engaging with policy makers what would they be?

Answer: To me, the key challenges that universities face in engaging with policy makers are:

  • Excessive teaching load, which means less time to do quality research which can have something relevant to say about what course policy should take, and also time to interact with policy makers.
  • Limited budget to support research.
Question: If you were asked to identify two or three challenges that face policy makers in engaging with academia what would you say?

Answer: Amongst other things, some of the challenges that face policy makers in engaging with the academia are:

  • Trust – policy makers are careful about what they say, since this can affect their political fortune if the information gets to political opponents and the general public.
  • Human resource capacity constraints - Ministries often do not have the capacity to have methodological discussion with academic researchers on policy issues.
  • Time constraints – policy makers are often too busy to create the space to engage universities, research institutions and the staff who can provide evidence for policy.

 

Linking the Fellowship Programme with KNUST Research Uptake Strategy

The Fellowship forms part of the KNUST broader Research Uptake strategy, and Dr Adu’s experience provides KNUST with further insight into the environment within which Research Uptake takes place in Ghana. As noted by VincentAnkamah-Lomotey, Deputy Registrar (University Relations) at KNUST  “ with Dr Adu’s experience DRUSSA,  KNUST is better placed to find pragmatic measures to address the challenges identified. Measures [can] now be put in place to bridge the gap between academia and policy makers. This will call for close collaboration between all stakeholders for the common good of all”.


Dr George Adu is a DRUSSA Fellow from KNUST, based in the Department of Economics

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