Research coproduction is a collaborative research model: researchers work in partnership with the knowledge users who have the authority or ability to use the findings to inform decisions.
PEP supports coproduced research projects involving local experts and government institutions. When researchers have a better understanding of the users’ contexts and needs, the relevance of their findings improves. At the same time, this collaboration helps policy actors to better understand the research process and how the evidence can and should be used to inform decisions.
However, such collaborations are not without challenges, scientists and policymakers often have different interests, and different perspectives on the issues. These challenges inspired the theme of the 2020 PEP Policy Conference, held as a public online event on October 16 to conclude the 2020 PEP Annual Conference. Download the concept note.
An international, inter-disciplinary conversation
More than 180 people from around the world attended, including researchers, international experts, stakeholders, donors, and decision makers. The discussions concentrated on how governments and academia can work together to produce reliable evidence to support policy decisions.
The event featured a keynote presentation and a panel discussion. Anita Kothari and David R. Walugembe from the University of Western Ontario, Canada, gave the keynote presentation on the “Coproduction of development research: Research that matters”. They looked at how coproduction takes places within development research and highlighted questions of power, sustainability and digital inequality as areas for frictions. They also provided recommendations to researchers and research-funders for successful collaboration.
Following the keynote presentation, the audience was invited to ask questions and contribute their thoughts on the advantages of and challenges to coproduced research.
The second half of the event was a panel discussion between four members of PEP project teams: two government-affiliated members and two researcher members.
The panellists were:
- Francis Mwaijande, Senior Lecturer in Public Policy and Social Science Research at Mzumbe University, Tanzania
- Namizata Binaté Fofana, Advisor for Gender and Research at the Ministry of Women, Family and Children, Côte d’Ivoire
- Sifiso Ntombela, Chief Economist at the National Agricultural Marketing Council, South Africa
- Chitalu Miriam Chiliba, Research Fellow at the University of Zambia
Each panellist spoke of their experience and outlined lessons and recommendations.
Matodzi Amisi, Senior Research Consultant at the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa, moderated the discussion and the question-and-answer session that followed. She provided key takeaways from the day’s presentations and discussions.
The benefits of coproduction outweigh the costs. Coproducing evidence is important for the quality and relevance of the research as well as the usefulness and usability thereof in policy and practice. When research is undertaken with the intention to influence policy, working in partnership or collaborating with the intended evidence users is essential. Done well, coproduction is mutually beneficial for researchers and policy actors.
Coproduction means democratising the research process. Those involved must commit to shared knowledge generation and allow different perspectives to shape what is known about the issue of interest. They must recognise the value of the knowledge both sides are bringing to the table.
Challenges to successful coproduction come from both sides. Careful planning and being aware of the power distribution within the research-policy team, and the wider systems of knowledge generation will help manage the challenges.
Coproduction is not limited to public policy use. Partners for knowledge production may include NGOs and civil-society organisations, especially when coproduced evidence can support their activism.
…and action points
Funding for research should incentivise coproduction. Research coproduction is a process and producing high-quality results will be resource-heavy and time-consuming.
Build genuine relationships based on trust between evidence producers and evidence users.
Acknowledge contributions that shape the outputs. This may include naming policy actors as authors if they give their time and share their experiences and expertise, whether or not they write research outputs.
Watch the full event (also available via the PEP Facebook page)
The 2020 PEP Annual Conference was held online. It was organized as part of the second PEP-PAGE initiative, with support from the Canadian government through the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).
Additional funding was provided by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Global Affairs Canada under the Impact Evaluation Mentoring for Governments and Climate Change in Africa initiatives, respectively.