An interview with David Raitzer from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) on the KSinR Pilot Project – ‘Shared learning to enhance research priority assessment practices’
Money is hard to come by – especially these days. So when you secure research funding you better be sure you know how to spend it. Can knowledge sharing help with that?
David Raitzer, from the Center for International Forestry Research(CIFOR) thought so, and applied for a grant from the Knowledge Sharing in Research project to try it out.
David has been heading up a project, which reflects on the research priority assessment experiences of twelve CGIAR centres, programmes and partners. This is all to be shared with broader audiences via a CABI book to be released in July.
“Researchers can choose many things to study, but funds are limited and research for development should have impact for the poor and/or the environment,” says David “So it’s about how research managers consider what they could achieve with different uses of research resources. We are therefore interested in looking at the methods they use to do so and what lessons are offered to improve future attempts.”
“Without some sort of analysis of impact potential, scientists tend to choose what they want to do based on curiosity and scientific salience, and they may not fully consider other factors that affect whether their outputs lead to beneficial changes on the ground. But when they have to go through a process of laying out different options and making explicit the assumptions necessary for impacts, impact culture can be strengthened.”
David says the book will serve a number of purposes, not least of all valuable knowledge sharing.
“The ultimate goal of the book is to improve methods for evidence based decision-making in the centers about what research is pursued As one means to do so, we hope that this helps to illustrate to donors that the impact potential of research can be systematically assessed, and that these efforts can benefit from appropriate incentives, such as the alignment of funding decisions to assessment results,” he says.
“The intended outcome is both to make donors aware of what the centres are doing to better prioritise research that will have an impact as well as to help those in the centers who are trying to assess priorities.”
David believes the book itself fills a knowledge gap. It allows research organisations to see what methods other organisations have used to inform decisions about what their research priorities should be. But it also goes beyond the technical methods to the processes by which the methods are implemented, such as how assumptions are elicited from scientists and the interface between actual decisions about research priorities and the information offered by analytical exercises. In so doing, it offers insights that cannot be found in prior texts on the topic.
“These priority assessment methods are also knowledge sharing approaches in themselves. Tacit assumptions of scientists are made explicit, communicated to colleagues, refined and blended with external information. Documented assumptions can then also be followed up with subsequent monitoring and evaluation. As a result, knowledge is not only shared, but is improved.”
Knowledge sharing can help in many ways when designing important and valuable blueprints for research-that will have an impact.