Policy making is a complex interactive and iterative process. It is not a single, one for all act, rather it is best conceived as a process. The policy process is influenced by diverse nature of socio-economic, cultural-political, structural and other environmental factors while the role of scientific evidence is crucial. However, no matter how diligently scientists work for scientific evidence, the impact of such evidences always remain limited if these evidences do not reach to those who have the power to act on them.
The crucial role of academicians and research scientists is limited to produce state-of-art knowledge. Once the state-of-art, cutting-edge knowledge is produced, policy makers have greater role to effect the policies instilling the state-of-art knowledge available. However, an abundance of literature from, both developed and developing countries, have concurred and demonstrated that there is a disconnection between the knowledge producers— the academic world along with knowledge system and the knowledge utilizers—the world of policy makers for making sustainable policies to effect positive social change.
These two communities or worlds have long existed in silos as they are poorly connected separate communities. They are motivated by different reward systems—one counting the number of academic publications and another looking for immediate patchy solutions to emerging problems without considering about long term consequences, often resulting into the diametrical tractions between scientific research, policy and practice.
Communication between academic scholars and policy makers are mutually dependent and intricately interconnected. Politics and policy making rely on the availability of the state-of-art scientific scholarship when aiming to address complex social problems from poverty alleviation to social inequality. Scientific scholarship of policy sciences is highly dependent on public funding and politically deployed and regulated resources.
The policy making world or the State must fund the scientific scholarship while the academic communities must produce the scientific policy relevant scholarship and communicate to policymakers for informed evidence based policy making. Yet, in the context of Nepal, such practices have almost been entirely belittled.
The World Bank data shows that the research and development expenditure of Nepal is .30% (point 30%) of the Gross Domestic Product. It shows that Nepal as a least developed country entering into lower-middle-income country with the aim of becoming a middle-income country in the future has no intention of developing endogenous sustained funding mechanisms for research and innovation to produce state-of-art scientific knowledge in the country—a cutting edge locally tailored knowledge.
The current practice of 'tippani' notes developed by either section officers or under-secretaries in the name of producing policies is a recipe of policy failures as has been noticed for long.
The country seems to be believing that research is not required for policy making even after a plethora of failures of policies adopted from the past to the present. The top level leadership running the country and controlling the fund must understand that research is expensive but not doing research on time is even more expensive. The current practice of 'tippani' notes developed by either section officers or under-secretaries in the name of producing policies is a recipe of policy failures as has been noticed for long.
There are many different models of policy making. Among them one of the most popular models is system model of policy cycles developed by David Easton. The system model suggests that election results, public opinion surveys, interaction with public officials, media coverage of concerned issues, personal experiences of policy makers play critical role in policy making and political system.
These inputs from various stakeholders enter into the 'black box' and the black box generates policy outcomes. Although the model talks about inputs—black box—outputs situation, it does not specifically deal with how and when research is conducted as inputs to prioritize agenda items to choose the best alternatives from among the all available.
As the current models and even practice often seem to neglecting research, we need to strongly recall that policy decisions informed by rigorously established objective evidence always better serve social problems and goals. Evidence-informed policies relate to good data, and robust analytical skills to analyze scientific evidence to deal with social problems and social change.
As the inputs from scientific research for policymaking is significantly important and a necessity even after having a multiple input sources inclusive of political campaigns besides the scientific research, without getting informed by the research, policies must not be made as they cannot be tailor-made and sustainable, rather they appear to be biased. In this contexts, policymakers and academics need to focus on bridging the roles of two communities of silos in order to bring their worlds closer together for robust research, evidence and sustainable policymaking.
Government must allocate considerable research funding for universities from social sciences, medical sciences to natural sciences research activities and universities must work towards generating new cutting edge scientific knowledge. Policymakers can fund short-term research also for collecting quick empirical data and analysis to inform policies that need to be made in short period of time. These efforts can not only contribute towards the production of state-of-art scientific scholarship but also to building skilled human resources capacities at universities.
Attention must be given to communication of scientific evidences to let policy makers understand and get convinced to act for developing policies informed primarily by scientific knowledge, taking into considerations of other factors mentioned above. Political institutions, academia, research institutions, scientific knowledge funders, end-user stakeholders and others must collaborate and call for more improved scientific communication and dissemination methods to inform public policy on a local, regional and global scales.
Due to the availability the Internet and increased digital teaching, learning and literacy practices, we can utilize a myriad of science policy communication and dissemination platforms now. For examples, some of these, among others, can be public presentations, participatory workshops, media appearances, use of Facebook post, Youtube, TikTok. We can also write succinct, accessible and understandable a two page policy briefs in plain language, synthesizing the key findings of the scientific articles with a couple of sound recommendations, which are politically viable, economically feasible and scientifically reliable and societally implementable.
Thus, we can conclude that communicating scientific knowledge to policy makers is complex but it can be simplified and done by using all the available resources and platforms of the 21st century. Of course, it requires more efforts: which means academics/researchers and the policy makers need to go beyond their comfort zones.