Summary of first e-Conference
The e-Conference was opened by Mr. Nico Elema, the NEPAD SANWATCE Programme Manager, and Prof. Jacqueline Goldin, University of the Western Cape, in an online video discussing Knowledge Management (KM) in general and thus providing the backdrop to the discussions that followed. The discussion was divided into two parts:
1) What is KM? Who are the stakeholders in the water sector?
2) A new direction?
Do researchers in the water sector have to change their perspective and become more policy-tuning, rather than policy-shaping?
The e-Conference started off with an immediate focus on policy. Professor Daniel CW Nkhuwa of the University of Zambia clearly demonstrates the added value of incorporating information and the results of research into groundwater management policy and even day-to-day management. He rightfully recognizes that the uptake by political beneficiaries of this information is not always evident, and suggests a certain responsibility for knowledge producers to ‘package’ their knowledge to facilitate the uptake. This is not evident to achieve, as is pointed out by Andrea Leone of the Joint Research Centre Ispra who states “In our experience we noticed a consensus among stakeholders on the need for common approaches to KM but scepticism about top down or artificially created solutions – user shaped solutions can be more “chaotic” but more likely to work.”
Based on these arguments Mr. Murray Biedler, expert on the southern African water sector and KM, put forward the controversial argument that the mismatch between policy-makers and researchers is also due to the time lag of the two worlds; researchers think long-term while policy-makers are tied to short-term time frames and outputs. This led us to ask the question whether you think that researchers in the water sector have to change their perspective and become more policy-tuning, rather than policy-shaping.
Andrea Leone from the JRC turned the question around and challenged policy-makers to adapt their decision-making processes. This was followed up by Prof. Goldin from the University of the Western Cape, South Africa, who remarked that policy-makers want simplistic data and clear recommendation. She therefore suggested that scientists publish two papers; one which adheres to the strict scientific ethical requirements, while the other presents the information for the policy-makers in form of policy briefs. Prof. Nkhuwa, in particular, raised the issue of ethical standards in the scientific community and reminded the participants that science and data cannot exist in a vacuum but have to serve a purpose. It is, to quote Prof. Goldin, “the researchers’ ethical duty to transfer information as accurately and precisely as possible” and face-to-face interaction with policy-makers is preferred at all stages of the policy cycle. In the end, all commentators agreed that it is up to all stakeholders – researchers, policy-makers, and society to contribute their specific knowledge, in order to improve the well-being of the southern African water sector.
The full summary can be downloaded here: Econference_Knowledge Chain Nov 2012.
Refer to the Programme and Topics to see what is being discussed and when.