Education empowers people for their role in society and therefore is of vital importance to promote sustainable development. Globalization has prompted technological, economic and sociocultural change, consequently creating a growing demand for society’s capacity to acquire, process, disseminate and apply knowledge. Globally, universities are tasked with the functions of teaching, research and service to the community with research taking center stage as it serves the other 2 functions. Knowledge generated through research is fed into the content knowledge for university curricula and thus contributes to enriching teaching by ensuring that it is informed by new knowledge. Further research designed to find answers to societal problems deepens understanding of these problems and yields knowledge that is used to solve them thus universities serve as a link between knowledge generation and transfer of knowledge to society. Similarly universities actively contribute to the societal development through outreach and service to society. In addition to basic research, universities also have to undertake innovative, action-oriented research for development. Societal problems are almost always complex thus require multidisciplinary approaches to resolve. The challenge for universities is to create rich learning environments that prepare learners for their roles in society. Thus, universities can be perceived as models for society in the pursuit of sustainable development.
‘‘Research is the yoke that joins the core functions of universities’’
Disconnect Between Policy and Practice
Though universities are expected to be centers of knowledge creation through research, what forms acceptable evidence-based research that can inform policy remains contested. Subsequently low academic research uptake and application is prevalent. Scholars argue that policy-makers tend to ignore academic research; whereas policy-makers maintain that academic research is seldom timely or directly relevant to their needs. ‘
‘Academics lament that policy-makers ignore their research, while policy-makers argue that academic research is largely irrelevant to their needs’’
There is growing demand that policy and professional practice be evidence based. It is argued that effective use of research-based knowledge has the potential to improve the quality of public policy and enhance public services and delivery systems. Kenya’s Vision 2030 is anchored on 3 pillars; social, political and economic. Research is expected to play a vital role in formulation of relevant and practical policies for each of these pillars. Most challenges that confront humanity have a lot to do with social-psycho issues rather than scientific and economic knowledge. Thus a focus on social science research is important in informing and guiding policy. However the extent to which social science research is utilized in policy formulation is limited. It is against this backdrop that Prof. Grace Bunyi, an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Management, Policy and Curriculum Development is leading a team of social science researchers in undertaking a Project titled: ‘An assessment of the production of social science research by universities and its utilization by policy makers and practitioners in Kenya’ that seeks to establish the production of social science research by university-based social scientists and its utilization for policy formulation by national and county government ministries and semi-autonomous government agencies. The study is expected to provide evidence on the application or lack application of academic research in policy formulation. With this kind of evidence strategies and structures can be formulated for academic research uptake so that the research results are not shelved once the research is complete, but be useful in addressing community problems.
‘‘The interface between social science research and policy is extremely unsatisfactory to both researchers and policy makers. The problem is the unrealistic expectation about what the social sciences can achieve in the process of development. Policy-makers have always had a basically instrumentalist and technocratic view of science, research and training.’’
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