The National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI) has challenged researchers working on the national development priority areas in institutions of higher learning and other research organizations in Kenya to ensure research findings and innovation outputs especially those supporting the Government’s Big 4 Agenda, reach Kenyan communities in order to impact the population.
Dr. Moses Rugutt, Director General, NACOSTI, was addressing University Research Chair teams drawn from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) – which is implementing the manufacturing project and Moi University (Maternal Health Care System) during the first Science Communication Training under the Framework of the University Research Chair Programme supported in partnership with Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) held at Egerton University, Friday, March 8, 2019.
Dr. Rugutt stated NACOSTI has over the years, noted with concern, the high volume of scientific outputs that remain on the shelves of offices and libraries, yet the key purpose of any research is not only to increase the body of knowledge but to impact on the general populace.
The Director General regretted that the intended “consumers of the research never get to know what has been researched and the implication of such findings,” further stating that where attempts have been made to communicate research findings, the packaging of such information is made in such a way that is not appealing to the consumers, leading to what he termed as “researchers talking amongst themselves.”
Dr. Rugutt said, policy makers who are key consumers of research are in most cases, not necessarily experts in scientific fields of research. However, given their critical role in policy making, it becomes imperative that research findings are packaged in a simplified, appealing and easy to comprehend format.
The Scientific Communication Training was therefore tailored to equip research chairs with relevant knowledge and skills for effective communication of their respective research findings. JKUAT was however lauded by NACOSTI for incorporating a Communications practitioner to work with the Manufacturing research team.
The University Research Chair Programme, seeks to contribute towards Kenya’s social and economic development by strengthening the role of universities in the country’s national innovation system, and deliberate effort has been made to ensure a social scientist is part of the research team to ensure research findings relate to the common person.
Dr. Rugutt appreciated IDRC for partnering with NACOSTI in supporting the first University Research Chairs’ Programme in Kenya, which is being piloted in the Manufacturing and Health sectors by JKUAT and Moi University, respectively. He thanked ISAAA AfriCentre for partnering with NACOSTI to facilitate the training, noting, the training would build the capacity of the researchers in packaging information relevant to their respective projects, ready for release to the stakeholders.
Dr. Rugutt challenged the two Research Chair holders to take advantage of the Government’s policy direction of the Big Four Agenda to seek financial support from both Government and other development partners to ensure the programme is sustained beyond the five years.
Researchers under the Manufacturing research chair led by Prof. Bernard Ikua are working with coconut farmers and SMEs in counties at the Coast to develop efficient versatile technologies to support the entire Coconut value chain. The JKUAT Research Chair members who attended the training included, Dr. (Eng) Hiram Ndiritu, Prof. Willy Muturi, Prof. Githaiga, Dr. Waudo Wambilianga, Mr. Bonface Kariuki and Patrick Amunavi.
Running under the hashtag, #MyOnePolicyAsk, JKUAT researchers conveyed special messages to key stakeholders: Prof. Muturi said, “Coconut farmers could benefit from value addition instead of selling raw fruits to Tanzanian brokers who buy from them at low prices. He called for the Agriculture Ministry to develop a policy limiting harvesting time and to tax raw coconut exporters heavily.
Dr. Ndiritu, stated that “Coconut is an amazing crop, which when processed locally, has the potential to change the lives of Kenyans, and JKUAT researchers are developing relevant technologies. A policy is needed to protect these technologies,” while Prof. John Githaiga said, “Coconut value addition strategies under NACOSTI Research Manufacturing Chair contributes to Big 4 Agenda, adding, coconut husk is waste from which fibers and peat is extracted and utilized for manufacturing of natural industrial products.
On Maternal Child Health, Mr. John Tabu said, Moi University has developed an innovative system to enhance human resource and infrastructure at Clinic level and vouched for recruitment of community health workers to enable mothers deliver nearer their homes.
Under the Manufacturing Research Chair, anticipated outcomes from 5 project research streams include: equipment and tools for enhancing productivity and quality within the coconut industry, safe and value added food products for domestic and export markets, supporting SMEs within the coconut sub sector to become fully grown industries, and designing and developing tools and machines for production and commercialization of the coconut.
The areas covered during the training facilitated by the ISAAA AfriCentre included; principles of effective science communication, stakeholder mapping, message development, effective media relations, strategies and tools to engage policy makers, among others.