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Do public policy decisions rely on policy research?

Many of us are busy formulated policy research proposals. At the same time, we are learning why policy research is important, the differences between academic and policy research, the cycles involved, and so on.

This week, our colleague and team member from ICT Strategy II (ICGBP2010) posted an interesting hypertext: the summary of a paper describing the pitfalls that have prevented public policy from benefiting from policy research in Nigeria. The summary also includes a list of measures that can help overcome the challenges. (The challenges and measures are described in detail in the original paper.)

While you read our colleague’s summary below, think about your country. Do they ring a bell? Are these common problems which countries face? Can you think of ways in which your country has overcome these pitfalls?

1) Unhealthy competition between “in-house” research outfits and statutory research organizations

“In-house research outfits refer to small units within government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) that occasionally carry out evaluation studies relating to government policies, programs and projects using internal resources”.

2) Policy initiation gap

Often, no one takes the responsibility to initiate the implementation of policy research recommendations.

3) Policy confusion and uncertainties

There is often this fear by political office holders that the proposed research findings may undermine their political positions. At other times, they do not really understand the research findings and thus misconceive the ideas.

4) Poor culture of policy development

For example, it is in the records of the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) that prior to the FDI research of 2003, they had not undertaken any policy research for ten years!

5) Inadequate linkage mechanisms

Policy makers attach little importance to policy research dissemination workshops. They often send representatives who may not have the needed experience, capacity or clout to ask the relevant questions and make the required inputs.

The paper also identifies five ways in which the policy-research nexus in Nigeria can be fixed: giving priority to research funding, establishing a network of public policy research organizations, ensuring that research is demand-driven, establishing feedback mechanisms between research institutions and policy makers, and providing adequate research infrastructure.

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