The Politics of Co-Producing Scientific Evidence

The Politics of Co-Producing Scientific Evidence 2016-10-25T18:32:56+00:00

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Chair: Dr Shanil Haricharan, National Treasury, South Africa
Panellist: Ms Harsha Dayal, Presidency of South Africa, South Africa
Panellist: Ms Bongiwe Kheswa, Department of Science and Technology, South Africa
Panellist: Prof Ruth Stewart, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Panellist: Mr Laurenz Langer, University of Johannesburg and University College London, South Africa
Panellist: Ms Precious Motha, Africa Evidence Network, South Africa
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This interactive round table will debate the politics of co-producing scientific evidence. It will feature three perspectives from government officials who interact with the research sector to improve the use of evidence during decision-making, as well as three researcher perspectives on working together with government to produce policy-relevant research. Each participant at the round table will introduce a provocative thesis on the politics around co-production based on her own experience. Thereby the round table discussions will be promoted to debate if government, in fact, has a responsibility to engage in collaborations to produce evidence or if public officials should remain mere consumers of it. Is research best left to researchers or can (and should) public officials assume agency and ownership through co-producing evidence? Co-production also carries the risk of unintended consequences. By inviting researchers to collaborate with government, weaknesses in government internal processes might be exposed and the co-production exercise might be caught up in, or reinforce, existing administrative politics. Producing evidence in a political context, can researchers or public officials uphold the objectivity and rigour required of scientific evidence?

In sum, this round table is hoped to stimulate debates among the participants to interrogate whether the dichotomy between research producers and users is indeed justified; whether co-production does lead to more policy-relevant evidence without compromising rigour and transparency in research; whether co-production is politically desirable from an institutional perspective for both government officials and researchers; and whether co-production as a process is sustainable. This round table thereby aims to facilitate debate and discussion—in a less-formalised manner—and test the assumption that collaboration between research users and producers is indeed effective to increase research use unpacking the often unspoken politics, practicalities, and tensions inherent in the process of co-producing policy-relevant evidence.

For the round table, we will bring together a set of senior government decision-makers and researchers. Two speakers will contribute an international perspective having worked extensively on the use of evidence in the UK and South Africa. Government decision-makers will represent different government departments to ensure a broad and diverse perspective.
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haricharanDr Shanil Haricharan
National Treasury, South Africa
Chair

Shanil Haricharan has a diverse professional work experience in the public sector as a senior official and advisor over the past 21 years in all three spheres of government. He has public management, leadership and organisational development research and consulting experience. For the past 11 years, Shanil has served as a senior technical advisor at the Technical Assistance Unit (TAU) and the Government Technical Advisory Centre (GTAC), at the National Treasury. He lectures on public leadership and organisational behaviour on the MPhil programme at UCT’s Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice, and on the Albertina Sisulu Executive Leadership Program in Health (ASELPH) Masters in Public Health at the University of Fort Hare. He received a BSc (Medical/Life Sciences) at the University of the Witwatersrand, an Advanced University Diploma in Adult Education at the University of Natal, a MBA at the University of Cape Town, Graduate School of Business, and a PhD at the School of Public Leadership, University of Stellenbosch. He also completed the Gestalt International Organisation and Human Systems Development Programme at the Gestalt International Study Centre, Cleaveland, USA.
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stewartProf Ruth Stewart
University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Panellist

Prof Ruth Stewart is chair person of the Africa Evidence Network and Director of the University of Johannesburg’s Africa Centre for Evidence. She has spent the last three years leading the University of Johannesburg’s programme to Build Capacity to Use Research Evidence (UJ-BCURE). Having grown up in Malawi, she studied in the UK and has worked in South Africa since 1998, as well as with University College London’s EPPI-Centre. Her work includes the production of evidence for decision-makers, as well as supporting civil servants to access and make sense of research. She has a background in social sciences, and has worked across academia and government, with a commitment to engage with stakeholders in her research using a wide range of approaches. She has worked for nearly twenty years on the production of synthesized evidence to inform decision-making, including systematic reviews, rapid evidence assessments and evidence maps. She is committed to making a difference through her work by ensuring that research evidence is useful and used.
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dayalMs Harsha Dayal
Presidency of South Africa, South Africa
Panellist

Ms Dayal currently works as the director of research in the Department of Planning Monitoring and Evaluation within the Presidency of South Africa. Research experience in poverty, public health, gender and disability studies gained during her employment at the Human Sciences Research Council from 2007 to 2014 has provided her with the necessary experience and skills in bridging the research community and policy makers towards critical national priorities grounded in the Social Sciences. She has a Master’s degree in Public Health and is a qualified Occupational Therapist serving the public health sector from 1993 to 2007. In addition, she provided secretariat support during the development of the National Health Insurance and currently serves on several reference groups as a researcher and senior public manager. She strives towards bringing together the two worlds of research and policy in transforming society and pursuing developmental objectives.
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kheswaMs Bongiwe Kheswa
Department of Science and Technology, South Africa
Panellist

Bongiwe Kheswa has been working for the Department of Science and Technology (DST) for 10 years in the Research and Development Planning Unit. Bongiwe’s responsibility is to establish and maintain inter-departmental relationships and support the reviews of critical technology intensive services in ensuring that sector-specific departments make substantial investments in new technologies and infrastructure of these services. She has been instrumental in coordinating the alignment of DST’s policies with that of other government departments creating an enabling environment for joint implementation of government initiatives. Bongiwe Kheswa completed a Master of Business Leadership (MBL) degree from UNISA in 2014 with a dissertation titled “An investigation of the state of knowledge management and the retention of institutional memory within the Department of Science and Technology”. Mrs Kheswa is currently registerd for the degree Philosophae Doctor (PhD) in the Management of Technology and Innovation at Da Vinci Institute for Technology Management. Mrs Kheswa’s proposed PhD topic is “Science and Technology Policy Coherence and Coordination: The South African Context’’.
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langerMr Laurenz Langer
University of Johannesburg and University College London, South Africa
Panellist

Laurenz is a Research Synthesis Specialist at the University of Johannesburg’s Africa Centre for Evidence (ACE) and a member of the EPPI-Centre research team at the UCL Institute of Education. Laurenz leads ACE’s work in supporting national government decision-makers in South Africa to integrate evidence from research syntheses (e.g. evidence-gap maps, systematic reviews, meta-analyses) in the formulation and design of public policies and programmes. Laurenz has conducted a range of systematic reviews and evidence maps, including reviews published by the Campbell Collaboration and the Collaboration for Environmental Evidence. He recently authored the NESTA and What Works funded Science of Using Science Report and was part of DPME’s efforts to pilot policy-relevant evidence maps as a method to inform decision-making in the public sector. His research interests include evidence synthesis, decision-making in the public sector, and social network analysis to support policy implementation.
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mothaMs Precious Motha
Africa Evidence Network, South Africa
Panellist

Precious Motha is the coordinator for the Africa Evidence Network (AEN), which is a network of researchers, practitioners, policy makers and everyone with an interest in evidence-informed decision-making. Previously, Precious co-ordinated PAN-Children a HSRC-UNICEF network with a similar evidence use remit. She has extensive experience in science communication and coordinating networks. She holds a BA in Psychology and a BA Hons in Industrial Sociology, both from the University of Johannesburg, as well as a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from Wits Business School. She is passionate about all things pan-African and interested in projects leading sustainable development on the continent.
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