Production of Social Science Research by Universities and its Utilisation by Policy Makers and Practitioners in Kenya
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Knowledge production through research is considered a critical role of universities. Indeed, universities are regarded as the main knowledge-producing institutions in any society. On the other hand, the critical role that research produced knowledge plays in finding solutions to the problems that confront society is generally recognized. Social science research knowledge in particular offers policy-makers a rich body of data, concepts, and theory which can help make policies and practices more relevant and therefore more likely to achieve the results for which they are adopted because they are based on more accurate understanding of present social conditions. Through Vision 2030, the government in Kenya has embraced research-based knowledge as a key driver of rapid economic and social development. This study sought to establish how much and what social science research is produced by universities in Kenya as well as explore the extent to which university produced social science research is utilised in policy formulation and programme implementation. Additionally, the study sought to identify the facilitators of and barriers to university-based social science research in Kenya. Specifically, the study sought to: (i) Establish how much and what research is produced in social science disciplines by universities in Kenya, (ii) Establish the ways social science research produced by universities is utilised by the relevant government ministries and agencies, (iii) Establish what facilitators of production and utilisation of university-based social science research exist in Kenya, and (iv) Identify the barriers to utilisation of university produced social science research. The study employed a mixed methods approach. Quantitative and qualitative data was collected from social science researchers from five universities (3 public and 2 private) on the research produced in the ten-year period (2005-2015). Quantitative and qualitative data was also collected from national and county level policy makers in the Ministries of Education, Health and Agriculture; and in related SemiAutonomous Government Agencies (SAGAs). With regard to social science research production in the universities, the key findings of the study were that: social science research production by lecturers in the schools/faculties of education and humanities/arts/social sciences in the 5 universities over the period 2005-2015 covered by the study was generally low; public universities produced relatively more research than private universities; more research is produced in education than in the other social science disciplines; and consultancy research supersedes academic research. Universities provide different types of research support for their academic staff including availing research facilities and resources such as: ICT resources and internet connectivity; research capacity building; providing incentives, and establishing research support units. On the other hand, the most important barriers to the production of social science research in universities were found to be limited access to funding and heavy teaching and supervision workloads. University-produced social science research utilisation by national level policy makers was found to be very low. The research found that rather than university-produced research, policy makers depend on internally produced research, research produced by consultants; research from related institutes / centres; and information gathered in community meetings especially in the case of county level officers. vii 10 10 Whereas universities have in place some research utilisation facilitators, this is not the case with national and county governments. The facilitators were found to be; providing support for research dissemination activities such as open access facilities; financial support for lecturers to make presentations in local and international conferences; establishment of university/school/departmental research journals; and in a few cases, research directorates/unit with research uptake as one of their key functions. The study concludes that social science research production by universities in Kenya is low. The study also concludes that there exist facilitators for social science research production at the university level but that this is countered by several critical barriers. The study concludes that: there is very low utilisation of university-produced social science research in the policymaking and formulation processes at both the national and county government levels; universities are aware of the need for the research they produce to be utilised and unlike the national and county governments, support lecturers in undertaking research utilisation related activities. However, the channels universities were using to disseminate research were ineffective in reaching the research users – policy makers. The critical barriers to research utilisation include: a disconnect between universities (the research producers) and the national and county government policy makers (research users); lack of structured approach to the management of the research production / utilisation interface. To increase social science research production by universities, the study recommends an increase of funding for university social science research; designation of some of the public universities as research universities; improving remuneration for lecturers to enable them choose to do research rather than engage in extra teaching just so as to make ends meet; government works with universities as institutions in meeting its research needs in order to build universities’ institutional research capacities and cultures, rather than opting to work with consultants; and that private universities put more emphasis on research in their planning. Recommendations on enhancing utilisation of university-produced social science research for policy and practice in Kenya include: addressing the university / policy makers disconnect through establishment of deliberate formal relationships between universities and policy makers; creation of a body to enhance utilisation of research through collection and review of research produced by universities (and others) to identify the cumulative findings on a given policy issue and advise policy makers appropriately as well as monitor and identify what research is required for policy and practice so as to advise research funders and university researchers what research they should focus on; use of non-traditional research dissemination channels including publication of research in non-academic publications such as professional magazines, mainstream newspapers and popular magazines as well as dissemination through popular electronic media such as radio and television; and providing for a budget line on research dissemination in the funding proposals budgets.