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Three ways to turn research into action

16 June 2020

by Amayaa Wijesinghe, Communications and Data Officer – TRADE Hub/DCP


It is clear that the production of scientific knowledge alone, while critically important, may not always be enough to make impact.

Increasingly, a scientist’s call to action includes engaging at the ‘science-policy interface’. That is, to facilitate the translation of scientific findings into policies and on-the-ground interventions that make positive change for people and planet.

One project that focuses on strengthening the science-policy interface is the Development Corridors Partnership (DCP), and the progress of the project so far can offer researchers useful lessons in translating research and evidence into action.

Development Corridors and policy impact

Development Corridors are geographical areas (often linear) targeted for investments aimed to promote economic growth. They have been prioritised by governments keen to accelerate regional integration, expedite resource exchange and promote economic development to alleviate poverty. 

However, there remain significant gaps in knowledge regarding the impact that present and planned corridors could have on local communities and natural ecosystems.

The Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway in Kenya is an example of a development corridor. It will be operated by the China Communications Construction Company for the first five years, and runs through the Nairobi National Park, among other protected areas (seen in green) and crosses lands traditionally used by pastoralists (Map developed by Diego Juffe/ Development Corridors Partnership)

The DCP is a 4-year capacity building and research project funded by the UK Research and Innovation’s Global Challenges Research Fund (UKRI GCRF), to assess existing and proposed development corridors in Kenya and Tanzania, and collaboratively consider how they can be designed to deliver sustainable, inclusive and resilient economic growth.

The project brings together 11 institutions and 40 researchers in Kenya, Tanzania, China and the UK to deliver research excellence in assessing environmental and social risks, scenario planning, and understanding social costs and benefits, and seeks to integrate these findings into key policy decisions.

To achieve this, DCP has designed interventions aimed at upskilling its researchers to understand the policy context of their work.

Tools to strengthen targeted science-policy action 

The capacity building under DCP includes a purpose-designed, virtual training programme for early career researchers on translating research to impact.

The programme is ongoing, but here are 3 useful takeaways for researchers wanting to make an impact:

Impact must be planned.

Scientific advice (usually) needs to be offered proactively to decision-makers.

Context, context, context.

By 2021, it is planned that the Development Corridors Partnership will be able to positively contribute towards sustainable corridor design and decision-making in Kenya and Tanzania. Further, the key skills developed in bridging the gap between evidence and action can be carried forward into the future.

Find more information about the Development Corridors Partnership here.