Research uptake key to programme implementation

Dryland Agriculture project
Copyright: Sven Torfinn / Panos

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[NAIROBI] After interacting with many experts, I have established that scientists, researchers and development practitioners are becoming increasingly interested in understanding how policymakers, programme implementers and communities are using research evidence in decision-making.
This emerging interest in a subject commonly referred to as research uptake has gathered momentum and is attracting the attention of communicators, donors, development partners and governments.

I gathered that communication determines how communities — the main partner — and policymakers can effectively use research uptake in targeted interventions.

Alberto Leny

Research uptake, an emerging field that is not yet very well understood, continues to be extensively discussed at different forums globally, with Sub-Saharan Africa mostly eliciting particular focus in two areas critical to the lives of the continent’s population – health and agriculture.
Research uptake professionals are continuing to explore the issues and aspects surrounding it, such as its theoretical conceptualisation, innovative approaches and barriers, its impact, and county-level experiences and lessons.
Earlier this week (25 January), I met Tom Barker, a senior health and nutrition convenor at the UK-headquartered Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the Africa Population Health Research Center (APHRC) in Kenya. He attended this workshop as part of a project team carrying out an independent evaluation of the UK Department for International Development-funded five-year £75 million (about US$106 million) maternal and newborn health programme in Kenya.
The programme is being implemented by partners such as the UNICEF Kenya, the UK-based Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Options, an international organisation that aims to improve global health outcomes. The programme’s evaluation is led by Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA) and others such as the APHRC, IDS, Great Lakes University of Kisumu in Kenya, and Itad, a UK-based consulting firm that specialises in monitoring and evaluation.

In my discussion with Barker, he concurred that research uptake falls within the context of the programmes’ evaluation and that communication is crucial in research uptake.
“Our work has three core components: capacity building in clinical and obstetric care management, health systems strengthening and observing the demand side, notably attendance at clinics, which has improved and seems to be working quite well,” Barker explained, illustrating the linkage between research uptake and programme implementation.
I gathered that communication determines how communities — the main partner —  and policymakers can effectively use research uptake in targeted interventions, whether in health, agriculture, water and sanitation, energy or other areas that touch directly on the lives of the poor and the marginalised.

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.