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Close gap between researchers and policymakers

I agree with the concerns of the Honourable Yamfwa Mukanga of Zambia that taxpayer-funded scientific research does not yield results that benefit the people (see Critics question worth of Zambian science). 

Although there are national research institutions in developing countries that use public funds to conduct research, often the results of their research are not translated into national policies — and consequently the people do not benefit.

Here in Malawi, we have similar concerns. We have several institutions that conduct research with taxpayers' money but often their research output does not benefit the people. Once the research activities are over, we rarely hear about the findings — let alone the translation of relevant findings into national policies.

My opinion on this is that the problem lies with both the research institutions and the national policymaking bodies.

I feel there is a gap between researchers and national policymakers. In most developing countries, there is no structure in place to channel research results to the latter.

In cases where institutes organise research dissemination workshops, policymakers are either not targeted or rarely attend. This lack of interface is affecting the translation of research results into national policies.

Additionally, policymakers do not communicate to researchers the priority areas of research that need policy formulation. This is why some researchers resort to conducting academic research in order to publish and make a name instead of doing research that would benefit the entire nation.

I suggest that both researchers and policymakers should have a proper structure in which research results are synthesized and processed into national policies.

There is also a need to have forums for both researchers and policymakers in which the two can interact and share ideas. In this way, researchers will be able to identify gaps in knowledge and conduct research that will inform policy. In my view, this will address the concerns we have about scientific research not benefiting the public.