To achieve equitable and sustainable economic growth and development Ghana needs to deliberately create a synergy between evidence-based policy and decision-making, former president of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, Professor Aba Andam has advised.
Prof. Andam, who is also the first female physicist from Ghana, gave the advice in a keynote speech at the 2022 science bar camp recently held in Accra.
She said the country will also save scarce public resources if policy decisions are based on evidence as well as by doing what has been shown to work.
The event was organized by GHScientific, in collaboration with the Ghana Science Association, GhanaThink and Ghana Young Academy.
GHScientific is a science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM)-basedGhanaian non-governmental organisation with a primary focus on promoting science education and engaging the public with science.
GhanaThink Foundation is a social enterprise that seeks to mobilise and organize talent for the primary benefit of Ghana, Africa and the world at large.
The Ghana Young Academy (GhYA) grew out of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences as its youth wing. It identifies and brings together talented young scientists to create the opportunity for better solutions to national and international challenges.
A yearly gathering, the bar camp brings together persons in and outside of academia in Ghana to share knowledge and experiences around a given theme.
This year’s theme, ‘Making Science Matter: Moving from Research to Policy’ seeks to capture how manage and conduct research in Ghana in such a way as to influence the decision-making process in the country.
Noting that resource management that is effective and efficient will reassure citizens and promote public trust in governments, Andam, however, argued that such will only be achieved if researchers work more closely with policymakers on the generation, interpretation, and use of data.
She iterated the four key steps to make this happen to include:
Relationship building: Academic institutions and researchers must build and maintain ties with decision-makers. Understanding of the policymaking process will grow as a result. Researchers will have more knowledge on the needs, justifications, and timing of policymakers;
Needs assessment: To determine policy priorities and pertinent evidence needs, researchers should interact with policymakers, civil society organizations, funders, government agencies, and politicians. They can brainstorm research questions together to make sure that investigations are pertinent. However, the involvement must continue both during and after the data gathering. Analysis and dissemination of the results by policy players are possible. The impact of research on policy must be considered from the outset;
Mutual capacity strengthening: Policymakers lack specialized knowledge in analyzing academic publications. Researchers shouldn't believe they can apply scientific findings to practice and policy. Therefore, researchers must determine and record the best ways to assist them, such as through consistent training. It is up to researchers to convince decision-makers of the importance of evidence-based policy. Researchers can also learn from the vast experience of policymakers, especially in understanding the policy landscape and how to engage them. Thus, capacity strengthening must be mutual with both the researchers and the policymakers gaining valuable knowledge and insights; and
Communicating to a variety of audiences: The language of scientific publication is not always clear to policymakers. Researchers must translate knowledge so that a wider audience can understand it. One place to start is writing and publishing a short summary of the research in plain language for the media. Policymakers need summarized documents with less scientific jargon.
The camp subsequently went into panel sessions where discussants highlighted the challenges of research communication vis-a-vis feasible measures that can be implemented to address sundry emerging issues.
A topic of interest was one about who best should communicate research findings. While many speakers argued that researchers communicate their findings themselves, ohers, however, spoke otherwise, insisting that trained communicators like journalists disseminate such information.
According to the former, journalists more often than not misinform the public on issues of research findings as a result of their perceived lack of or low knowledge in the field of study.
But the latter group thought otherwise, arguing that rather than downplay the role of journalists and communications experts in the instance, relevant trainings could be organisrd for them to more effectively communicate research findings.
Participants also had a chance to engage the experts one-on-one at breakout sessions.
Categorized under four topics with designated representatives from different organizations leading the talks, the breakout sessions were grouped into four: open science, which highlighted the various means of acquiring Science resources, and was led by West and Central Research and Education Network, WACREN; UNESCO recommendations on science and scientific research, which highlighted the role of UNESCO in science communication, and was chaired by AIMS Ghana; knowledge co-creation and sharing session which explored ways of collaborating and disseminating science information to and for the general public, and was handled by the Ghana Science Association, GSA; and, the mentoring a new generation session which focused on revealing measures that could be put in place to ensure that the younger generation of scientists were abreast with all methods of science communication, and was led by GhanaThink.
The bar camp was attended by participants from inside and outside Ghana, including Dr. Mavis Akuffobea-Essilfie (CSIR STEPRI), Mr. Omo Oaiya (West and Central Research and Education Network, WACREN), Dr. Irene Opoku-Nti (Ghana Science Association, Accra); Dr. Ernest Beinpuo (Ghana Nuclear Regulatory Authority), Ato Ulzen-Appiah (Kosmos Innovation Center, Ghana), Dr. Gordon Akon-Yamga (CSIR-Science and Technology Policy Research Institute, Accra), Adelaide Asante (African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, Accra), Forson Acher Dzotor (Ghana Science Association, Legon), Dr. Michael Osae (Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute, Legon), Owen Iyioha (Eko-Konnect Research Educational Initiative, Lagos, Nigeria), and Chris Atherton (GEANT, London-UK).