2002 Annual Report
Science & Technology and Africa's Global InclusionMessage from the Chair .... Produce Knowledge that will help!
That science and technology policy has a principal role to play in sustainable development is not a matter of debate and I salute the African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS) on its vision and initiatives to popularize science and technology policy in Africa.
The novelty of the programs of ATPS and its numerous contributions to science and technology policy are not easy to measure. As a network, the ultimate impact of ATPS is the influencing of policy making in the region; developing of capacity in Africa; and creating, disseminating and exchanging information on science and technology policy issues in useful and accessible formats.
While it is important that researchers have easy and regular access to policy makers and that policy makers are regularly and meaningfully involved in the research process, researchers, in turn, should produce knowledge that will help policy makers better address the policy issues of the day.
However, we know that there is a gap between the worlds of policy makers and researchers. There are different cultures. At times, the difference takes on an adversarial aspect, us vs. them attitude. Bridging the gap requires knowing the terrain on either side. Researchers must come to understand the context in which policy makers operate and the pressures they face. On the other hand, policy makers should be more aware of the support researchers require to carry out their work satisfactorily. Knowing the needs of each group contributes to developing effective interaction.
ATPS has a distinction of being one of the first African research networks to bring together multidisciplinary science technology policy practitioners for the purpose of analyzing science and technology for development. Indeed, the success of ATPS is probably best symbolized by the continued increase in demand for its services, thus attesting to the network's credibility.
My first message is to policy makers. Policy formulation in science and technology remains a top-down rather than bottom-up process that does not allow for the involvement of researchers and other stakeholders. Indeed, the promotion of dialogue between researchers and policy makers during this meeting will significantly improve our understanding of the role of science and technology policy in sustainable development.
I urge policy makers to allow science and technology to be the foundation of whatever we do in Africa. Make use of the capacity that ATPS and other institutions are creating to progress towards a common policy research agenda. We want to respond to your needs.
To researchers, I say that networks are some of the most important ways to tackle capacity building. Centres of excellence, like ATPS, are catalysts of research; they offer capacity building opportunities and peer revision. They provide the sharing of produced scientific knowledge, identification of common interests, understanding of impacts and information gathering and dissemination.
The scientific community should contribute by placing their knowledge into the network. You should undertake frequent policy evaluation as well as lobby for greater role in policy processes. The language of your research, be it in biotechnology; space science; new materials science; information communications technologies, among others, should be accessible to policy makers.
I ardently recommend that we develop strategies and mechanisms to strengthen partnerships between African policy makers and African researchers. Let us promote participatory research and teamwork comprising all stakeholders because science, technology and innovation policies are not only rewards of successful development, but critical tools for achieving it.
Prof Norah Olembo
Chair, ATPS Board