The landscape of the institutions of policy research and its financing in Pakistan

Published by mis on Mon, 10/28/2013 - 10:44 in
  1. Given the history of Islamabad centred policy making, the overwhelming majority of the key policy research institutions are clustered in Islamabad, followed by Lahore,and some organizations present in Karachi. With the exception of few institutions of agriculture, nutrition and medical research, there is no major policy relevant research organization in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.
  2. The concentration of the research organizations in Islamabad and Lahore sharply contrasts with the current needs of policy research at the provincial level. The devolved policy making under the 18th challenges to the communities of policy makers and researchers. Provincial governments therefore need to play a major role in facilitating institutional development for independent research. Similarly, leading research organizations also need to extend their engagement with provincial policy issues to provide context specific analysis in order to maintain their significance in the changed landscape of policy making.
  3. With the exception of the fields of scientific, technological and security research, the public sector is largely missing from the overall landscape of policy research which is dominated by the non-government/private sector. There is a strong need to revitalize the existing public sector research organizations such as PIDE, AERC, NIPS, and PITAD and to take new initiatives to promote research within the public sector overall.
  4. The public sector institutions of higher education are almost invisible in the overall landscape of policy research. As the public sector universities are spread across the country, the promotion of policy relevant research in their faculties has the greatest potential to provide the context-specific, disaggregated knowledge-base required for policy making thus addressing the regional disparities alongside training the future generation of policy researchers.
  5. The existing policy research is characterised by an overwhelming emphasis upon quantitative analysis with qualitative analysis lying at the margins. While the quantitative analysis has its own utility, the issues of policy research need far deeper understanding of the complexities, informalities and processes than captured by the statistical relationships. There is thus need to encourage exploratory studies employing a range of qualitative methods to inform policies by providing contextually rich and in-depth analysis.
  6. Theme-wise landscaping of research institutions provides a number of insights, such as:
    o The largest number of organizations is engaged in conducting policy research in economics. These organizations are, however, largely clustered in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. There is no organization of economicsresearch in Balochistan or KPK
    o The research under the themes of agriculture, food security and nutrition, essentially of scientific and technical nature, is dominated by the public sector institutions including universities. Contrary to this, the research directly evaluating policies relevant is conducted mainly by few non-government organizations. 
    o The research on health issues, particularly the medical research, is mainly steered by the Pakistan Medical Research Council with a strong presence of Aga Khan University in the private sector. The technical/scientific aspects of public health are also addressed by few organizations in the public sector. Ironically, there are fewer organizations, mainly residing in the non-government sector, working directly on health policies and health systems. 
    o The research under the theme of poverty, gender and social policy is heavily dominated by the non-government organizations. Overall, the country is struggling with its capacity to govern, particularly in the devolved landscape. Paradoxically, there are few non-government organizations engaged in policy relevant research on the issues of governance. 
    o The research under the theme of conflict and peace is dominated by the public sector think-tanks focused primarily on strategic and international/regional issues. There is however an increasing number of research organizations extending their work on this issue covering domestic nature of conflict and its dynamics. Overall, organizations working on this theme are mainly concentrated in Islamabad.
    o The landscape of evaluation is largely individualized with ‘core group of experts’ hired frequently as consultants, alongside the presence of few Islamabad based organizations and consulting firms. The prospects of local institutional development under this theme appear to be compromised by outsourcing the largest evaluation programme in the development sector to the international actors.   
  7. There is a scarcity of public funds to support policy relevant research. By and large, the available public funds are only allocated to the scientific and technical disciplines while ignoring the major social science based disciplines of policy sciences.
  8. Lastly, amongst the donors of policy research, the largely prevalent, short-term projectised mode of financing research needs to be replaced with long-term investments in developing research infrastructure and strengthening local intellectual capacities. Some examples of the international donors’ role in trengthening research in Pakistan within public sector and the non-government sector, in the past, need to be built upon.
For further details, please see the paper ‘Landscaping Policy Relevant Research in Pakistan: Identifying the Key Actors’ in the publication section.

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