Update on the recently concluded ATPS Conference on linking Research to Policy and practice
Researchers now want policy makers and planners to involve them in their planning process. This emerged during a 5 day ATPS Annual Conference that was held between the 7th And 11th November 2011 in Mombasa, Kenya. The conference, Tagged “Strengthening Linkages Between Policy Research and Policy Making” Attracted participation from over 29 countries. Speaking at the conference, the Secretary and Chief Executive of Kenya’s National Council of Science and Technology, Prof. Shaukat Abdulrazak called for the need to adopt proactive policies based on practical solutions to Africa’s problems. He noted that while Africans have been consumers of foreign technologies they have relegated themselves to receiving instead of being in the forefront of developing usable technologies to their advantage.
Prof Abdularazak warned that if Africa continues to be a consumer of foreign technology it will continue to lag behind as the innovators from other regions use the continent to experiment on their technology to make it better for their own use. He noted that whereas African states do not implement the already developed policies they continue to find policies that are not related to the African development matrix hence end up failing miserably. Prof Abdulrazak is now calling for the need to have home grown workable solutions that can easily be absorbed by the population and can be used by the policy makers to plan. “We need to compare ourselves with other countries and continents that have succeeded,” he says and adds, “this as usual mentality, has put us where we are and unless we change we will continue to remain where we are,” warned Prof Abdularazak. He queried just how in a country where four million Kenyans have been starving two months ago, they still have no clue how to make use of the current heavy rains, and called for a paradigm shift in how we plan and use the resources that are abundant in our localities. “We need to demystify science and let the population know that science is a way of life and we use science in our day to day functions,” he said.
He appealed to the media to also develop an interest in reporting on science and research instead of the current concentration on politics that does not help to spur growth. Women must be brought into the limelight of leadership as they have a rare advantage of being able to move what many can not, “The African mentality is rotten we pride so much in relegating the women into the back banner yet they are a resource we can tap into for our own betterment,” said Abdulrazak in the opening keynote address. “The world is not going to slow down just because Africa has remained behind, we must leap frog and stay ahead of the pack.” And the Director of STEPRI-CSIR in Accra Ghana, Dr George Essegbey abhorred the poor usage of research findings. Dr Essegbey in his opening remarks, called for strengthening linkages between policy research and policy making for African development. The Chairman of the African Youth Forum for Science and Technology Tennyson Magombo said the challenge of climate change is real, “there is a great need to use home grown solutions to the challenges.
Prof. Norah Olembo warned that the traditional norm in which women take too long to get into the public realm or even take up science oriented studies at various levels of education has been discouraging. She called on women to rise to their calling and venture into research. While noting that a few more women have stood the test, Prof. Olembo said women on the continent are not yet at the level they should be. “Women have often shied away from venturing into the science realm but the situation is changing as more women now get into the field once feared by many women,” said Olembo. The Executive Director of the African Technology Policy Studies Network, Prof Kevin Urama in his opening remarks noted that there are many innovators in Africa but their innovations end up unusable due to lack of a system through which such innovations can be developed for the benefit of the continent. “We need to change our mindset and inculcate the need to use more of African developed research findings.
ATPS Board Member and former Minister of Science and Technology in the Federal Republic of Nigeria Prof Turner Isuon said for as long as the private sector, the policy makers and the public continue working at a variance it will be difficult to make use of scientific research. Prof Turner noted that scientists are wont on using scientific jargon which tends to deny the population the knowledge on how to make use of the scientific innovations. He called for for interlinking of research findings to the general development needs of the population and the country. “Research has to be fed by data and the solutions needed ought to be home grown,” he said and added that walking the beaten path would be better for the continent.