There is a shortage of senior African social scientists available to
lead or manage research in Africa, undermining the continent's ability
to interpret and solve its socio-economic and public health problems.
This is despite decades of investment to strengthen research capacity.
This study investigated the role of individually commissioned
consultancy research in this lack of capacity.
In 2006 structured interviews (N = 95) and two group discussions (N = 16
total) were conducted with a fairly representative sample of Ugandan
academic social scientists from four universities. Twenty-four senior
members of 22 Ugandan and international commissioning organizations were
interviewed. Eight key actors were interviewed in greater depth.
Much of Ugandan social science research appears to take the form of
small, individually contracted consultancy projects. Researchers
perceived this to constrain their professional development and, more
broadly, social science research capacity across Uganda. Conversely,
most research commissioners seemed broadly satisfied with the research
expertise available and felt no responsibility to contribute to
strengthening research capacity. Most consultancy research does not
involve institutional overheads and there seems little awareness of, or
interest in, such overheads.
Although inequalities in the global knowledge economy are probably
perpetuated primarily by macro-level factors, in line with Dependency
Theory, meso-level factors are also important. The current research
market and institutional structures in Uganda appear to create career
paths that seriously impede the development of high quality social
science research capacity, undermining donor investments and
professional effort to strengthen this capacity. These problems are
probably generic to much of sub-Saharan Africa. However, both
commissioning and research organizations seem ready, in principle, to
establish national guidelines for institutional research consultancies.
These could develop both institutional and individual research capacity,
improve output and accountability, and facilitate academic research
funding and indigenous research agendas.
Wight, D.; Ahikire, J.; Kwesiga, J.C. Consultancy research as a barrier to strengthening social science research capacity in Uganda. Social Science and Medicine (2014) 116: 32-40. [DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.06.002]
Consultancy research as a barrier to strengthening social science research capacity in Uganda