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The extent to which research influences policy

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Published: Mon, 10 Apr 2017

Discuss the extent to which effective development policy depends on good research

Introduction

In development, for one to know what aids development, why a particular system works and how effective an approach taken towards improving development is, a proper research has to have been done. Development policy is a decision made or designed to improve a condition from a problematic state to a better or an improved form. Research is said to be ‘a careful study that is done to find and report new knowledge about something’ (Merriam-Webster). Some types of research done are reviewing existing research, field experiments, secondary analysis (reviewing information from existing archives), qualitative methods, survey, case studies, and cost-benefit analysis (research done to determine the cost and benefit from an action), amongst others (Dukeshire and Thurlow 2002). Research is an important part of policy making because without research, pressing policy questions will not be answered as it’s hard to make a policy without identifying a problem, the context in which the problem is based and possible solutions that a policy could enforce.

In a research at the IMF in 2011, Moises Schwartz, the director of IEO states that “Research is at the heart of innovation and improving policymaking”. He goes on to say that research, at the IMF, helps develop and improve conceptual models that serve as the foundation for policy recommendations. In this paper research will be used in relation to evidence-based

This paper discusses how research influences policy, the gap between researchers and policy makers and how good research is needed for effective development policy making.

Research and Development policy

One cannot make a policy if one doesn’t know what that policy is to address. Without research, policy makers will not be informed about the problem that requires a solution through careful planning and decision making. The way research is done and presented could influence deeply the policy making process (Dukeshire and Thurlow 2002).

For the creation of effective development policy, not just a policy under huge probability that it might work, proper research has to be done. Furthermore, for the improvement of quality of life and reduction in poverty, a proper use of research and evidence in the making and practice of development policy, is required (Court et al 2004). Research promotes credibility and also plays an important role on how policymaking is thought of by country authorities and also, research improves the gathering and spread of global knowledge (IMF 2011).

Effective development policy requires researches that are relevant to the particular policy question. Researches done for a specific development policy question will look at the problem from all spheres, gather knowledge about the problem from the place the problem is situated and the people it affects, carry out a thorough case study and could also ask indigenous people to suggest solutions as they know better what will work for them and then make recommendations which will influence the development policy making. This entire process will ensure that the policy is effective as the decision will be based on research that addressed the problem directly and evidence produced. People in a community, through participatory approach, a research technique, could identify problems in their society and proffer solutions to these problems (green et al 1995; Frankish et al 1997).

The 1999 white paper on modernizing government adopted evidence based policy as part of its philosophy as it expressed its expectations of policy makers to bring up new ideas, take a different approach to the way things have been done in the past he use of research in the policy making process and also to create policies that will proffer effective long term solutions. Research helps policy makers be well informed about a situation a policy is to address however “…there is nothing a government hates more than to be well-informed for it makes the process of arriving at decisions much more complicated and difficult” ( Skidelsky 1992). In my own opinion, research restrains the government from making a “one fit all” policy. It is easier for a government or donor institutions to make a ‘one fit all’ policy than going through the process of research, gaining adequate knowledge about a particular problem and having to make policies that fit specific contexts or societies and not been able to make a general policy that is not based on specific contexts or a countries specificity.

In basil jones paper on linking research to policy, he says to achieve effectiveness and efficiency better sector work has to be done alongside research and analysis in development process which will in turn influence policy making. Without research or proper knowledge of a development problem, it is hard to make right decisions that will enable effective solutions.

There is a great link between research and policy making although, it has been said that there is a gap between policy makers and researchers. It said that researchers make their findings inaccessible, sometimes lengthy, in a different language and uneasy to decipher just in time for policy decisions (Jones, 2011). Also, researchers do not research on problems facing policy makers but answer questions based on the tools and resources they have (World Bank 2010).

Development policies are made based on finding solutions to development problems and research seeks to study and find possible and optimum solutions to those problems. Thus, without proper communication between the researchers and policy makers, it will be impossible to make an effective development policy as it is impossible to make a developmental progress if these two actors are working individually or separately.

Conclusion

it has been noted that governments and donor institutions tend to make ‘one fit all’ policies that will cut across different countries without taking into consideration the different countries peculiarity or its institutional context and sometimes are accused of making policies based on existing data from doctored research plans and conclusions that fit an existing policy or research done before without making room for new researches (Brettenwoods project, 2011). For example, the prevalent view amongst staffs of the IMF is that research findings need to be in relation with current IMF policies and evaluations done at the IMF showed that some researches were done with the conclusion and an already present policy in mind and some researches had different conclusions and recommendations separate from the analysis done in the research (IMF 2011). Furthermore, some NGOs have distorted the policy making process which renders the policy incapable and in turn creating negative effect on the poor by not engaging in research based evidence (Harper 2001). Above, it was noted that there was a significant gap between policy makers and researchers which needed to be bridged. Bridging the gap between these two actors In the development process could be done by making good use of researches that have been done and researchers communicating their findings to policy makers(court and young 2006).

Also these donors should not make it all about the funding but also gaining or gathering and sharing new knowledge which can only be gotten from good research (Jones 2011). Policy questions should be the basis for a research and not just research based on the resources available to the researcher or what attracts the interest of the researcher at that time. Furthermore, in considering the future of development, results that influence policy and practice and relevant to poor people’s needs could be gotten by the improving the researchers effectiveness to produce such results. This was stated in a 2008 research strategy of DFID.

Finally in answering the question to which extent effective development policy depends on good research, before a policy is made, there has to be an evidence of a problem and the evidence of the problem and knowledge gathered about the problem is held in mind before a decision is made to improve the condition of a problem, so basically there cannot be a policy without a research of some kind. Therefore, a development policy depends on research but an effective development policy that will properly address a problem that is being faced will depend on a good and thorough research. This paper has discussed the link and gap between research and policy, the dependency of policy on research and also the benefits of an evidence based policy.

References

“Research” Merriam-webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. web 26 February 2014 http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/research

Brettenwoods (2011). Evaluations suggest IMF, World Bank research ideologically driven [online] Available: http:// http://www.brettonwoodsproject.org/2011/09/art-568905/ [Accessed: 24 February 2014]

Cabinet office (1999) modernizing government stationary office: London, Ch. 2, Para. 6. Cm 4320. Available at www.cabinet-office.gov.uk/mordengov/whtpaper/index.htm>

Court, J. and Young, J. (2006) Bridging research and policy in international development: an analytical and practical framework. Development in Practice, Volume 16, Number 1, February 2006.

Court, J., Hovland, I. and Young, J. (2004) Bridging Research and Policy in International Development: Evidence and the Change Process, ITDG.

Dukeshire, S. & Thurlow, J. (2002). Understanding the Link Between Research and Policy. Rural Communities Impacting Policy Project

Frankish, C.J., George, A., Daniel, M., Doyle-Waters, M. & Walker, M. (1997). Participatory health promotion research in Canada: A community guidebook. Ottawa, ON: Health Canada, Health Promotion Development Division.

Green, L., George, M., Daniel, M., Frankish, J., Herbert, C., Bowie, W. & O’Neill, M. (1995). The study of participatory research in health promotion: Review and recommendations for the development of participatory research in health promotion in Canada. Ottawa: The Royal Society of Canada.

Harper, C. (2001). Do the Facts Matter? NGOs, Research and Policy Advocacy, in Edwards, M. & Gaventa, J., Global Citizen Action. Lynne Reinner Publishers

Jones, B. (2011), Linking Research to Policy: The African Development Bank as Knowledge Broker, Series N° 131, African Development Bank, Tunis, Tunisia.

Research at the IMF: relevance and utilization / [prepared by an IEO team led by Ruben Lamdany and Hali Edison]. – Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, 2011.

Skidelsky, R. (1992) John Maynard Keynes; a biography. Vol 2: the economist as saviour, 1920-1937 macilian: London p 630.

World Bank (September 2010) “Research for Development – A World Bank Perspective on Future Direction for Research” Policy Research Working Paper 5437

Yaron, G. And Louise, S. (2008) Good practice in evidence informed policy: An initial review for DFID.

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