Author Archives: INASP

Using evidence to mainstream gender in policy making
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Gender Centre for Research and Training running a workshop in training to policymakers on mainstreaming gender in development policies and practices.


– Blog post by Amira Osman, Co-founder of the Gender Centre for Research and Training, Sudan

Gendered evidence is important for policy making because it gives policy makers and development planners a clear picture on the gender needs of the population they are targeting. In recent years, this need has received greater attention. However, there are still numerous barriers and challenges to mainstreaming gender in programmes and policies.

To discuss this, a breakout session was held at the VakaYiko symposium in Accra on 5 October 2016. Policy makers, researchers and civil society organisations from countries in Africa, Latin America and Europe joined the discussion. Also present, was a Regional Director from the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection in Ghana, who shared a practical perspective on challenges and opportunities to mainstreaming gender evidence within government policy. Here are five key things to come out of the discussion:

1. Gender is a socially constructed issue

What we understand by ‘gender’ varies from culture to culture and changes over time. Furthermore, the concept of gender is sometimes seen as a western concept. Therefore the concept needs to be deconstructed and understood in relation to ethnicity, culture, geography, age, disability, religion and social status, making it more relevant to the experiences of people in the local context This is a key to developing a policy that is informed by relevant gender data and gender analysis.

2. Gender is often not seen as a priority

Policy makers at the top of hierarchical decision-making structures – often men – don’t see collecting and using gendered evidence as a priority. As such, adding a gender perspective to their activities challenges the status quo, including their power.

3. Policy making bodies often lack necessary resources, time and skills

Scarce or stretched resources is a major barrier. Even within departments with a specific gender remit – such as Ghana’s Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection – inadequate financial resources to collect gender disaggregated data was raised as a major challenge. The lack of communication between data producers (researchers) and users (policy makers) can further hinder this.

4. Quantitative and qualitative data collection methods are needed

There is often a reliance on quantitative data methods, which tend to favour statistics without paying attention to women’s and men’s different roles in society. For example, quantitative data may tell us about the number of women in a parliament but adding qualitative data will inform us about women’s and men’s experiences/perspectives within such an important decision making body.

Qualitative methods such as focus groups and in-depth interviews allow participants, in particular women, to engage in fruitful discussions and to raise issues of concern such as their experiences with domestic violence, which women may not feel comfortable mentioning in a survey conducted by a male interviewer. In this sense, the sex of the interviewers is relevant particularly in contexts where sex segregation is common, i.e. female interviewers are needed for female interviewees and male interviewers are needed for male interviewees.

5. Capacity building on gender disaggregated data and data analysis is a practical step

Capacity building for different stakeholders, such as community leaders, grassroots organisations, civil servants, researchers and policy makers, is needed. Capacity building for stakeholders on gender disaggregated data and gender analysis is a practical step to equip them with relevant skills to mainstream gender in policies and programmes.

To tackle the above key points/challenges, the Gender Centre for Research and Training in Sudan (GCRT), using the VakaYiko grant managed to provide capacity building sessions to mid and high level policy makers from two ministries in Sudan on gender and gender analysis to inform policy. The sessions acted as platforms for dialogue which helped policy makers to raise questions, analyse information and develop plans and policies that address the needs of women, men, boys and girls and to facilitate gender mainstreaming in all programmes.

To tackle the above challenges participants suggested the following:
• Reaching women, girls, boys and men in remote areas and incorporating their perspectives and needs in any gender and capacity building projects targeting them.
• Promote dialogues between policy makers and researchers to enable better collection of sex-disaggregated and qualitative data.
• Develop and sustain a gender perspective and gender analysis in all decision making processes.
• Allocate resources for all of the above suggested activities.

Read an interview with Thywill Eyra Kpe, Regional Director for the Department of Gender (Central Region) in Ghana, on how gender evidence is used to inform regional policy in Ghana.
http://blog.inasp.info/spotlight-evidence-gender-policy-regional-level-ghana/

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Evidence Spotlight: Towards better use of evidence in Parliaments – The experience of the Parliament of Uganda?
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John Mugabi Bagonza, Director of the Department of Research Services at Parliament of Uganda, shares the Department’s model with VakaYiko colleagues from Ghana and Zimbabwe at the 2016 VakaYiko Symposium in Accra


– Guest Post by Sunday Olishe Etrima, Research Officer-Parliament of Uganda

INASP’s Evidence-Informed Policy Making team is working with the Parliament of Uganda to improve the use of evidence in decision-making.

Uganda’s constitution places a huge mandate on the Parliament of Uganda to make decisions that serve the interests of the nation and its people. But this is only possible if parliamentary decisions are supported with valid, relevant and well-researched evidence. In other words, decisions must be informed by technical advice built on a strong foundation of evidence and analysis.

In the Parliament of Uganda, it is the duty of the Department of Research Services (DRS) to ensure that parliamentary decisions are backed with evidence. The DRS does this in a number of ways:

Building capacity to providing to Members and Committees of Parliament

The DRS has recently repositioned itself with the aim of providing and promoting more evidence and quality analysis to Members, Committees and Staff of Parliament. As part of the repositioning, the DRS has evolved from a small unit of only twelve staff within the Department of Library, Research and ICT, to being a fully-fledged Department with 39 staff members. This has enhanced the capacity of the DRS to provide evidence to facilitate parliamentary work and addressed some glaring evidence supply deficiencies.

Generating its own multidisciplinary evidence

The DRS is an evidence generation unit in its own right, housing economists, statisticians, accountants, lawyers, social workers, engineers, political scientists, agriculturalists, environmentalists and mineral experts. The DRS’ key research products include fact sheets, regular research reports, bill analysis reports, committee issue briefs, policy analysis reports, committee field visits, and meeting notes. In addition, new products such as constituency profiles, one page summaries and talking points for Members of Parliament (MPs) have been developed and are highly in demand by MPs.

Although proactive research on topical issues is very much encouraged, the DRS generally produces evidence in response to demand from different individuals or organs of parliament. Clients include individual MPs, Committees and Offices of the Parliament. Research requests are placed through the Director of Research Services and the work is assigned to the relevant researcher(s). It should be noted that research outputs are on the increase: in the first quarter of the Financial Year 2016/17, the DRS produced 129 more reports than planned, exceeding its target by 64%. This clearly demonstrates increased demand for research products.

Stimulating demand for evidence

Where there is less demand for evidence, the DRS also focuses on stimulating it, chiefly among Members and Committees of Parliament. This has been done through various strategies, perhaps the most prominent and recent of which was a ‘Research Week’ in August 2016 held to raise awareness of DRS research services among new members of Parliament in the tenth Parliament.  Another approach is making presentations to MPs and Committees on the importance of using evidence in their legislative, oversight and representative roles.

Ensuring the quality of in-house research

It is DRS’s strategy to continuously improve the quality of the evidence it generates. For instance, over the past two years, researchers have received training in bill analysis, policy analysis, report writing, committee briefing, science communications, data visualization, and other areas as part of a deliberate effort to build staff capacity in the department. This training was made possible with financial resources from the Parliamentary Commission and development partners such as INASP. As a result, the DRS’ capacity to generate more and better-quality evidence has improved significantly. The knock-on effect is that the department has earned the trust of the Parliamentary Commission, and now executes assignments in-house that were previously done by externally hired consultants. For instance, the DRS currently undertakes training needs assessment for the Institute of Parliament Studies.

Building strong systems to support evidence generation and use

Lastly, the quest of the DRS to ensure better use of evidence in Parliamentary work is rooted in building strong systems to support increased supply and demand for evidence in the legislative, representative and oversight functions of the Parliament of Uganda. To this end, the DRS has developed research guidelines and manuals to support its mandate. It is also developing a website and workflow system to share its products internally and externally, and finalizing collaborative arrangements with key research institutions and think tanks to create a pathway to allow the enormous amount of evidence produced by such institutions to be used in the policy arena.

That’s not to say there aren’t still some challenges: increasing number of MPs and Committees of Parliament that increases demand for work, limited funds to finance field studies among others. However despite these issues, the DRS is making good progress, and we hope to see increasing engagement with quality, relevant evidence by Parliament going forward.

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Journal publishing in Nepal is challenging
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– Dr. Mina Nath Paudel is Editor In-Chief of the Agronomy Journal of Nepal & Chief of the National Agriculture Genetic Resource Centre (Gene Bank) in Khumaltar, Lalitpur, Nepal. We asked him about his experiences of publishing his society’s journal and using the NepJOL platform.

In this photo, Dr Poudel shows effects of Climate Change on agricultural production in Nepal. Read more about his research in the INASP press release based on his article published on NepJOL. Photo credit: Thakur Amgai

How did your journal start?

The Agronomy Society of Nepal (ASON) was formed in 1994. We started publishing our first journal – ‘Agronomy Journal of Nepal’ – when I became its president in 2010 with an aim to publicize scientific works done by scientists in this field. The first volume of ‘Agronomy Journal of Nepal‘ was published in 2010. This year (2016) we have recently published its fourth volume.

 How did you get online presence?

We wanted the journal to have wider readership in Nepal and abroad. We had limited copies in print and not everyone could afford a subscription. Even this year, we published only 300 copies. So, we wanted to keep it online and give full and free access to anyone who wanted to read it. We registered a website and paid for a year’s hosting. But the account got suspended after a year as we did not have enough funds to renew subscription to the website.

I started searching on the internet for options to put the journal online for free. I landed on the NepJOL platform and found that it was exactly what I was searching for. I looked for the correspondence address. I found Sioux* Cumming’s name and email and I corresponded with her. She replied and offered to help and the journal was uploaded onto NepJOL in February 2013. Ms Sioux was kind enough to keep Agronomy Journal of Nepal (Agron JN) online giving all the help and technical assistance we required. Up to this day this journal is online due to the help and cooperation provided by Ms Sioux and her team at INASP.

What has been the result?

We got more viewers for our journal after we put it online. Many people call and tell me that they have read the articles online and comment about the articles. So much circulation would not have been possible with only hard copies. We have also formed a Google group of agronomists and we have regular discussions about the journal, research articles published on it and other related issues, after a journal is published. I have also received submission enquiries from authors in foreign countries after putting the journal online.

How has INASP supported your journal?

A few years after putting the journal online on NepJOL, I got an opportunity to take a training course on journal editing and publishing with INASP at Tribhuvan University Central Library in Kathmandu. The training was quite fruitful as I learned a lot of new things. In particular, I learned about Digital Object Identifiers (DOI), something I had never heard of before. Likewise, I learned standards of citation. And most importantly, I learned the nuances of plagiarism. In Nepal, although we have heard about plagiarism, we don’t know much about it. I think plagiarism might have affected some of the papers in our journal in the past  despite our efforts  to discourage it.

Plagiarism & Journal Quality in Nepal

Plagiarism is, arguably, the single biggest challenge in journal publishing in Nepal. Many articles submitted for publication are poorly presented, do not follow the prescribed format and submission guidelines and are heavily plagiarized. Often submitters, especially students, are unaware that ‘plagiarism’ is wrong. They are unaware on how to present a research article because they may not have been taught about it in university. Most of the students graduating in Nepal don’t know what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it. Plagiarism is still an issue even in research articles submitted by university teachers and other researchers. Editors, too, face a problem in quality control because they may not be fully aware of plagiarism checking tools.

Presentation of journal articles is another big issue. Often Nepali writers of journal articles present the results and skip the discussion part, thinking that discussion is not required when the results are presented. The discussion or the analysis is the core of any research findings, but many Nepali authors just present the tables and data and move directly into the conclusions without presenting the discussion.

The problem is not unique to Nepal. It is a common trend among many developing countries including South Asian countries. This is the reason that professors in many reputed universities advise their students against citing journal articles published in these countries barring exceptional cases.

What is the situation of publishing and being published in Nepal?

Journal publishing in Nepal is not easy. The awareness level is low and journal publishing and writing for journals is not considered highly even in research and teaching institutions. It is often considered to be a chore. Students at Masters’ Level and Doctorate level write journal articles for academic purposes; university teachers and other academicians write articles or publish journals for promotion or other career gains. Carrying out research, writing journal articles and publishing journals with the pure intention of contributing to the enrichment of knowledge in a field of study is not seen to be high priority. There are exceptions to it as well and one can find dedicated and bonafide researchers in Nepal too.

Resource constraint is a big challenge in publishing journals. Professional societies and universities alike lack funds to publish good journals. Researchers lack funds to carry out good research. The lack of resources is reflected in the quality of journal articles. As a result, journals don’t receive good articles for publishing while authors find it difficult to get published because they don’t meet the standard criteria.

What positive signs are there?

Given Nepal’s short history of journal publishing – spanning only about half a century – the progress is quite impressive, although we still have a long way to go to elevate Nepal’s journals to an international standard.

Researchers should be encouraged in Nepal. Reviewers must get some incentives. With better training opportunities and exposure, researchers will be better motivated. Opportunities to present their papers in national and international seminars will incentivize them to work harder on it. It’s a gradual process, and it will progress in coming days. We have come a long way since the publication of the first journal in Nepal, which, interestingly, also happens to be a journal in agriculture – Agriculture Journal of Nepal. Unfortunately, this journal has now ceased to publish. Personally, I have strong interest and commitment to improve journal quality in Nepal and I will continue working on it even after my retirement from office.

Any final words?

I am happy that INASP has taken the initiative to promote research articles by writing their press releases and circulating to the media for wider coverage. It is the first time I have been approached this way for comments on a research article published on our journal, and for sharing my experience in journal writing and publishing in Nepal. It’s a big boost to the morale of researchers and journal publishers like us.

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About Dr Mina Nath Paudel

Mina Nath Paudel is a leading agronomist in Nepal. He is a Principal Scientist at the Nepal Agricultural Research Council. Currently he is posted as the chief of the National Agriculture Genetic Resource Centre (Gene Bank). He has been the President of the Agronomy Society of Nepal (ASoN) since 2010. He is the Editor-In-Chief of the Agronomy Journal of Nepal (Agron JN), a peered reviewed professional journal published jointly by ASoN and Crop Development Directorate. Dr Paudel holds a PhD in Crop Production and Management from the University of the Philippines at Los banos (UPLB) in Philippines and MS in Agriculture Planning and Management from the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Bangkok.


* Sioux Cumming
is a Programme Manager, Journals Online at INASP. She has worked on and managed INASP’s Journals Online project since 2003. During this time she has helped establish and maintain eight JOLs platforms, which together host over 340 journals. Her role involves identifying new journals for the project; recording and publishing usage statistics; working with the editors of the journals to load new issues; and keeping the information about the journals as up to date as possible.


This interview was conducted by Thakur Amgai, Communications Consultant at INASP, on September 27, 2016 in Lalitpur, Nepal.

 

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Sustainability is a dynamic process
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INASP has recently evaluated the long-term sustainability of projects under the Strengthening Research and Knowledge Systems programme. Monitoring and Evaluation Officer Fran Deans shares some of the findings. Continue reading

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Spotlight: Evidence for gender policy at regional level in Ghana
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In April 2015, Thywill Eyra Kpe participated in the first VakaYiko evidence-informed policy making course to be run by Ghana’s Civil Service Training Centre. At that time, she was posted in the Volta Region of the country but she has since moved to the Central Region as the Regional Director for the Department of Gender, under the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection. In this interview, she discusses gender, evidence and regional policy in Ghana. Continue reading

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Gender mainstreaming in higher education: learning from our experiences
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– Blog post by Professor Flora Fabian, University of Dodoma, Tanzania In this blog, Professor Flora Fabian from the University of Dodoma, Tanzania shares her experience of working with INASP and explains how an AuthorAID workshop helped the process of mainstreaming gender issues at her university in Tanzania. INASP has recently launched Gender Mainstreaming in Higher education toolkit, which is an easy-to-use resource for institutions interested in tackling gender inequality in higher education. I am very delighted to see this publication out at a very crucial time for us. This toolkit builds on our experiences in training on gender awareness for academics. It contains many of  the tools that we used during the gender workshop held at the University of Dodoma in Tanzania in August 2015. The experience we gained in this workshop has been an inspitation for us to develop this toolkit. As a group of female academics at … Continue reading

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