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Gap between policy makers and academics

Most government decisions are based on intuition and assumptions and less on empirical research and evidence.

While lamenting about the bureaucratic hurdles, our academicians, who juggle administrative works with research, point out that our policy-making process is deficient of research and evidence.

Although a statement like this may require a study in itself, such an observation has come at time when the country, overwhelmed by the removal of cut-off point and the politics of it, did not see the absence of a study reasoning this change.

In nudging each other, the council and the opposition have locked horns over who should move court to determine the constitutionality of the policy change.  Even though it has no study to show, the government continues to argue that the change is based on the society’s needs. The government’s pledges for now appear to be the basis of what it thinks the society needs.

As academics remain swamped in red tape, lack of fund and constrained academic freedom, our politicians make decisions and then mobilise resources. In the case of the three new vaccines the last government announced, feasibility studies began only after the announcement.

So, the lack of empirical research and evidence and its implication on decision-making remains a non-issue.

Instituting a nodal agency to bring together all research in the country is a good start to streamline the processes that are today hindering academic enquiries. That the authority to provide research permits and ethical clearances are with different organisations today indicates how fragmented the practice is.

To inform policy making, our academicians’ work must define policy implications and be accessible. Complaining about bringing in consultants for studies or outsourcing such works is not enough to influence policies.

Academics or quasi bureaucrats, say there is a need to educate bureaucrats on the usefulness of research in policy making.  Working on policies that are meant to address the needs of the society and enhance the well-being of the people is a good ground to bring bureaucrats and academics together. Today, both policymaking and research are fragmented.

The day-long convention on promoting research in the country has made a good start to organise the academia towards creating a knowledge-based society. Policy makers and bureaucrats should provide support in realising this national aspiration.

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