Monthly Archives: February 2017

Evidence Spotlight: Overcoming challenges to using evidence in the Parliament of Malawi

Photo: Parliament of Malawi ——————————————————————————————————————————- In this Evidence Spotlight INASP’s Emily Hayter interviews Kondwani Chikafa (image, right), Senior Research Officer in the Research Section of the Parliament of Malawi. Parliament of Malawi’s Research Section is comprised of three staff. Its key function is to support decision making in parliament through research and analysis for MPs, who are its main clients. How is research information currently used in the Parliament of Malawi? Research information is used in three ways: In the Plenary: Members of Parliament (MPs) request information on issues that are on the floor of the House. This information is requested by Backbench MPs in the National Assembly and given to them before the House opens. In the Parliamentary Committees: Prior to Committee Meetings, the Research Section can be asked to prepare briefing papers on specific issues on the agenda to help members make informed decisions. Delegations: The Parliament of … Continue reading

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Promoting the use of evidence in parliaments

Photo: Participants in the Parliament Learning Exchange (Left to right) - Mohammed Hardi Nyagsi, Parliament of Ghana; John Mugabi Bagonza, Parliament of Uganda, Christina Mafoko, Director of Research, Parliament of Zimbabwe; Abrahan Ibn Zackaria, Parliament of Ghana.

Photo: Participants in the Parliament Learning Exchange (Left to right) – Mohammed Hardi Nyagsi, Parliament of Ghana; John Mugabi Bagonza, Parliament of Uganda, Christina Mafoko, Director of Research, Parliament of Zimbabwe; Abrahan Ibn Zackaria, Parliament of Ghana. ——————————————————————————————————— – Blog by Agnes A.S. Titriku, Program Manager, African Centre for Parliamentary Affairs (ACEPA), Ghana Staff members from three parliaments (Ghana, Uganda and Zimbabwe) are participating in a Learning Exchange programme coordinated by the African Centre for Parliamentary Affairs (ACEPA), as part of the VakaYiko project. The aim is to strengthen the role of parliamentary information support units in evidence uptake by providing a space for peer exchange and support—both ‘learning together’ and ‘learning from each other’. What do the parliaments’ information support systems look like? “Mapping out linkages and collaboration among information departments has provided insight on how to strengthen weak links for instance through learning from other parliaments”. – Research … Continue reading

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Project inspires organizational change in Southern library consortia

Participants in Ghana celebrate the end of a productive and inspiring two days.

Sustainable access to cutting-edge research information is essential for any strong research and knowledge system. Strengthening southern library consortia has been an important component of INASP’s work for many years.

‘Leading in the Library: A learning lab for sustainable access to knowledge in developing countries’ is a collaborative partnership between INASP and Caplor Horizons working with library consortia to inspire organizational change. The project helps strengthen leadership, strategy and influencing skills by providing space for blended learning, where a combination of online, face-to-face and other training approaches are used.

This work will strengthen the organizational effectiveness of institutions (library consortia) that play a pivotal role in the knowledge economies of Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Uganda by enabling access to cutting edge research from around the world.

The ‘learning lab’ is an iterative and constantly evolving approach. It requires a great level of flexibility by the team to develop and adapt the project as it develops in unique ways in each country. However, being able to respond to these emerging themes and challenges is what provides an added dimension of depth and alignment with local needs.

Earlier this month, Ian Williams (Executive Director) and Lorna Pearcey (Director of Development) from Caplor Horizons together with Kemal Shaheen (Programme Manager, INASP) and members of the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Ghana (CARLIGH) reflected upon the current situation at CARLIGH and on the potential barriers and opportunities for future sustainability. The key insights and participant feedback make for an interesting read:

Project inspires organizational change in Southern library consortia

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Photo Blog: INASP celebrates International Day of Women and Girls in Science – 11 Feb

INASP Photo of the Month Feb 2017: Sophia Osawe working in the lab on Nigerian baby white blood cells to check immune responses to childhood immunization at University of Cape Town, South Africa. Sophia was a participant of the AuthorAID online course in research-writing, which took place in October-November 2016.

A core principle for INASP is to promote equity by actively addressing the needs of both men and women across all of our work. We recognize that many women in the countries where we work often face a greater number of barriers and biases than men in pursuing careers in research and academia. Limited prior education opportunities, the traditional expectations of family and society, unsupportive institutions and a lack of senior female role models are just a few of the challenges that girls and women frequently face. These gender barriers have significant implications for the creation and use of knowledge that enables inclusive, just and sustainable development. As more and better quality scientific research is produced in developing and transitional countries, we are committed to ensuring that women have an equal opportunity to participate in the production and communication of this research and knowledge.

On the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we are taking this opportunity to celebrate some of the women researchers and scientists with whom we work.

Here are photos of some of the femaleresearchers who participated in our AuthorAID online research-writing course.

 INASP celebrates International Day of Women and Girls in Science - 11 Feb

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AuthorAID partners meeting reveals shared optimism for the future of research capacity building

AuthorAID partners meeting, Tanzania, December 2016.

–  Blog post by Jennifer Chapin, Programme Manager, Research and Communication, AuthorAID

In December, for the first time, we held a two-day meeting of the six African AuthorAID partner institutions that are embedding AuthorAID research-writing training into their institutions.

Working more closely together will help research institutions in Tanzania and beyond to tackle the many challenges facing African higher education today – challenges such as addressing gender equity, getting research published in reputable and appropriate journals, and training early career researchers in ways that are appropriate for their situations and their institutions. This was one of the highlights of the AuthorAID partners meeting that was held in Dar Es Salaam in December 2016.

Our embedding partners represent a cross-section of academics and researchers, ranging from large multi-college universities, to smaller universities that focus on distance education, to research institutes that work closely with key policymakers in government. The six partner institutions in Africa include the Tanzanian Fisheries Research Institute, St John’s University, Tanzania Muhumbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, University of Dodoma, Open University Tanzania and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Ghana.

The partners represented a network of like-minded researchers

Each partner institution has developed a plan with INASP/AuthorAID to embed research-writing skills and communication across the institution. What this means in practice is that we work closely with them in undertaking training of trainers, developing and running writing workshops, implementing online courses and identifying any obstacles to success (such as issues with senior leadership or issues affecting women researchers).

Most of the meeting was devoted to group discussions, sharing ideas and networking. What was interesting was how much everyone relished the opportunity to talk to each other – we had assumed that the majority of the group would know each other through the grapevine (so to speak), either within the Tanzania university network, or through the AuthorAID online network. But this wasn’t necessarily the case. In many instances, partners mentioned how much they wanted a network for regular interaction and support, but how they struggled to find the time or the contacts to do so. This helped the AuthorAID team to see how important we are in providing a forum to do so.

A common understanding of what works

At the end of the first day, it was pretty clear that our partners had similar experiences in many ways, and had come to similar conclusions about the elements of institutionalizing training in research writing:

  • Blended training was by far considered the best format for training. The combination of an online course (with flexibility of location and timing) and a face-to-face workshop (providing practical time devoted to writing and presenting research) provided the best of both worlds.
  • With some struggles with online course completion by the participants, the partners agreed that the prestige factor of having an external facilitator was important in promoting engagement. This does not necessarily have to be someone from outside the country. Everyone agreed that a facilitator from another university within the country would build enough interest to encourage engagement.
  • Everyone agreed that the embedding process is more successful when there is buy-in from someone in a leadership role within the institution. Likewise, the team running the training should have the ear of senior leadership as needed so that they can change elements of the training when it’s not working properly.
  • The demand for training will always be there – with the influx of new students and staff every year comes more demand for this type of training.

 Shared challenges and some solutions…

  • There were some shared frustrations about running online courses, in particular that it cannot be guaranteed that course participants will be confident about using online technology. This can have adverse effects on the completion rates. Suggestions to combat this issue were to run a pre-course sensitization session and to better advertise the benefits of completing the course (such as publishing more and increased opportunities for funding).
  • Time constraints were a continuous issue, with many people expressing how difficult it is to find time to run workshops and courses when there are so many other competing priorities. Others shared that they have successfully lobbied their dean or chancellor to protect time for this as a priority, and to provide opportunities for promotion as a result of undertaking more training.
  • Every institution mentioned the degree to which poor internet connectivity slows progress. This started a great discussion on ways to solve this problem. For online courses in particular, we discussed spending more time ensuring course materials are fully downloadable and that Moodle courses are fully compatible with mobile phones.

At the end of the two days, it felt like everyone had learnt a lot from their peers, and we all had long lists of ideas and things to do upon returning home.

Each partner took away notes on improving sustainability, solutions to some of the common obstacles, and ideas on new areas of training, such as a desire to understand better on how to communicate science to journalists and policymakers. Everyone agreed they could do much more to keep the network they had built together ongoing. There were suggestions of holding annual networking meetings, developing an online group, and sharing online course facilitators between institutions.

Within the AuthorAID team, we will do our best to develop this and implement the list of priorities over the next year. Lastly, I want to express my heartfelt thanks to all of the partners for making this such a successful meeting!

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Evidence Reading: How do governments get great?

Botswana Parliament Building

House of the Parliament of Botswana in Gaborone. The paper discussed in this evidence reading cited Botswana as an example of a government that led an impressive transformation resulting in its ranking of Sub-Saharan Africa’s least corrupt nation in the global Corruption Perceptions Index 2016 by Transparency International. —————————————————————————————————– – Blog post by Clara Richards, Director of the VakaYiko Consortium and Senior Programme Manager at INASP’s Evidence-Informed Policy Making Team I started reading more about how governments can improve their work and drive positive change because I wanted to know how we at INASP can work with governments to improve their policies by putting research and evidence at the heart of their development agenda. I discovered an endless and exciting literature. However, it is mainly driven by the same authors who are part of the ‘Building State Capability Programme’ , and although they have great insight, it would be good … Continue reading

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