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Protect research work, boost links with users

15th May 2012
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Editorial Cartoon

Researchers are being reminded again to ensure that their findings reach users, instead of being kept in shelves, where they serve no purpose other than gathering dust.

Some researchers, especially in public institutions have been blamed, perhaps wrongly, for operating without giving a thought to the larger public out there which needs to know about and apply their findings to improve lives.

For research is defined as the search for knowledge, or as any systematic investigation, with an open mind, to establish novel facts, solve new or existing problems, prove new ideas, or develop new theories, usually using a scientific method.
The primary purpose for research is discovering, interpreting, and the development of methods and systems for the advancement of human knowledge and application of the findings to improve lives.

The blame directed to our researchers centres around their perceived failure to properly connect with the users, be they ordinary people, enterprises or institutions in their various endeavours to improve the way of doing things.
But how justified is the blame to researchers for the failure to ensure users know of their findings and can apply them?
We are talking about the researchers in public institutions, who get public funding to carry out their work and whose findings are expected to be applied for the larger public benefit.

Recently the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Communication, Science and Technology Dr Florens Turuka expressed dismay over the growing tendency by researchers to keep their findings in shelves instead of availing them to the public for application.

He pointed out that the public and policy makers need to be fully aware of the research findings and utilise them for the benefit of the society.

The PS stressed that research institutions have an imperative role to make sure that their findings reach the intended people, so that they use them for their own benefit and the country.

We know that the country has in the last few years channeled resources into research in a bid to improve not only products, but also the way we apply ourselves to work to improve our lives.

From 2006/07 the government has set aside an average of 20bn/- per year for research, with the amount being raised to 30bn/- in the 2010/2011 financial year.

What is clear here is that we need to do more to bring researchers and users together for synergy. For it could be that researchers are exerting their energies in areas that may not be a priority to users, thus their works end up on shelves, gathering dust.

We know of some important innovations that researchers have made whose benefits cannot be enjoyed because there is no internal capacity to translate them into goods and services or systems to improve work.

It is indeed our expectation that more efforts will be made to create the synergy and capacity so that research findings are taken up by able users.

Equally important is that researchers and their work must be protected from abusers. These are the people and institutions, some of them operating internationally, who prey on the poverty of our countries to exploit this hugely important mental labour.

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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