To understand the role of scientific evidence, in this case STI indicators, in the process of STI policy formulation and development, the article employs a systems framework.
The systems framework
The framework divides interaction process within a system into four phases, namely, input, conversion, output and feedback. Following the pioneering work of David Easton, the systems framework has been variously articulated and adapted for use in policy analysis by a number of scholars (see Dror, 1968; Bozeman, 1979; Anderson, 1984; Olugbemi, 1980; Henry, 1986; Egonmwan, 1991). All systems interact with and are influenced by their environment, although boundaries are defined for them so that they can be seen clearly and analysed (Koontz et al., 1980). The inputs pass through a conversion mechanism and the output is released into the environment (Olaopa, 2011). The output in turn has consequences both for the system and the environment in which the system exists (Easton, 1957).
In the context of this article, emphasis will be placed on how major stakeholders at every level of government work to influence STI decisions as a result of their position, ability, advantage, social role and structural pressures within which they operate. The point we are making here is that the activities of various actors, their socialization, orientation, their economic and political background, need to be closely examined to proffer reasons for the effectiveness or otherwise of STI policy in Nigeria. The purposed actions of key stakeholders then becomes critical to the unravelling of the reasons for the success or otherwise of the formulation and implementation of any policy.
However, Nigeria has not been able to accord STI the required/needed attention particularly in terms of funding with respect to R&D in the sharing of, and allocation of revenue due to lack of appropriate indicator that shows the implication of such action or inaction. This notwithstanding, various Governments have shown interest and increasing appreciation and understanding of the critical role of S&T in the national political and socio-economic development programmes. In addition, they have at various times made efforts at establishing structures, formulating and designing policies to mobilize S&T for rapid national development. These bold and deserving efforts have had limited success as the national S&T system continues to suffer from major weaknesses and constraints as reflected by the inability of the respective policies to attain most of their objectives (Siyanbola et al., 2012). The reason for this includes, among others, lack of concrete evidence to provide the basis for their formulation. Thus, this underscored the need to provide evidence-based policy by leveraging on policy research outcomes, including, especially, R&D and Innovation Surveys in line with global best practices. For instance, as earlier articulated in this article, the attainment of sustainable development is a function of an appropriately designed policy framework based on effective knowledge and quality information. However, lack of the depth, quality and reliability of existing knowledge and information that characterized previous S&T policies has affected their thoroughness, robustness and wholesomeness. This has equally resulted in their limited operational performance.
We are not oblivious to the shortcomings of the systems framework, most especially its failure to focus only on the existence of parts that must work in harmony for the sustainability of the system without actually showing the roles/functions that these parts must perform or be allocated (Olaopa, 2011) and the impediments to effective STI policy formulation, as well as their implications/consequences for effective operation of the National System of Innovation (NSI). The understanding of these roles/functions, the impediments to viable STI policy operation/performance and their accompanying consequences is very important in that their adequate performance or otherwise has a lot of implications on the entire socio-political system. These shortcomings, however, are not weighty enough to render this framework inappropriate for this article.
Figure 1 shows the complex web of influences and the almost multidimensional relationship that submerge the STI system in the process of making decision on STI development.Feedback:
Represents either positive or negative influence that the STI policy output (effective service delivery or otherwise) has upon the political system and its environment to shape subsequent inputs.Environment:
Includes (1) STI stakeholders (members of NSI), (2) members of the public and other government officials and those whose interest will be affected as a result of the implementation of the policy.Inputs:
These according to Easton (1957) consist of “demand, resource, support, opposition”. As it relates to STI indicators and STI policy formulation in Nigeria, this includes the need and demand of Nigerian STI actors to have control over STI policy issues, the need for the policy researchers to provide resources, support and integrate evidence-based policy base on policy research outcomes. The demands include request for better funding, management of R&D, mechanism for commercializing R&D outcomes, human resource development, mechanism for S&T acculturation, partnership, collaboration and science ethics, private-sector involvement, STI governance and administration, among others, as articulated by stakeholders in the NSI. These are fed into the policy-making machinery with the expectation that those who make policies will respond with policies, programmes or measures that would be implemented to meet those needs.Process:
This is also known as “withinput” or conversion box. They, according to Easton, consist of “structures, procedures, policymakers, psycho-social framework” (Ayodele, 2000). In this article, the process is the arena for the interplay of forces that result in policies—favourable or unfavourable—to STI development. It also involves various actors, including policymakers and stakeholders at all levels of government such as the President, Ministers and Commissioners for STI and related matters, Cognate ministries and their officials at all levels of government and other structure within which STI policies are made. Others include people, governments, businesses, and institutions of education, non-government organizations and other organized groups that have the capacity to engage in the activities of interest.Outputs:
These consist of “goods, services and symbols to public and other policymakers”. In this article, they could be represented by STI policies that government formulates to promote efficiency and national development using STI indicators. These are implemented through projects, programmes and strategies. Thus, the extent to which the policy is effectively formulated with due regard to evidence will determine the effectiveness of the projects and programmes in solving developmental challenges.Management:
The overall coordination and management of the process driven by the use of STI indicators in the input, process, output and feedback. The capability of the government institute responsible for managing this will determine the extent to which the policy will address the needs of the stakeholders.
BACK TO THE FEATURE INDEX
Managers of both public and private enterprises are beginning to realize that informed policy and program management decisions require adequate information on both the economic and social factors affecting a project. But given time constraints, the problem becomes one of ensuring that specific economic or social schools of thought do not bias the information provided. The policy advisor has to be able to provide information on factors covering the spectrum of political views.
At the Centre for Policy Research on Science and Technology ( CPROST) we hope that we can foster this kind of professionalism in science, technology, and innovation (STI) and innovation studies in a way that will assist Canada and Canadians in making the successful economic and social decisions in the twenty-first century.
CPROST was established in 1988 as an independent, self-supporting institute within the Faculty of Applied Science at Simon Fraser University (SFU), and is one of the few academic centres in Canada specifically devoted to STI policy in Canada. CPROST brings together practitioners and scholars to study the interaction of advances in STI, their implementation in the marketplace, and their impacts on community and individual interests.
CPROST's mandate is to improve public policy and private decision-making processes by increasing public participation and promoting sound methodologies for the implementation of technological change. CPROST aims to promote an understanding of the relationship between public and private sectors as they stimulate, monitor, and control the process of technological innovation; and to enhance the effectiveness and global competitiveness of client organizations by creating and refining tools for the management of innovation. CPROST is also concerned with developing and retaining researchers skilled in advanced quantitative and quantitative research techniques.
What is science, technology, and innovation policy?
STI policy is the collective national understanding of how a nation's government should identify and develop its STI programs. As a subject of study and an area of professional expertise, STI is relatively unknown. This is not for lack of many attempts to place it on the political radar; rather, the federal government has been unable to form a national consensus on STI issues and policies. The result has been a laissez-faire approach to STI issues that has, over the past decades, severely damaged Canada's ability to establish its position in the global scientific community.
Under these circumstances why should we even study STI policy? Well, there are several good reasons why scientists and engineers should be involved in policy research. To begin with, we can assist in the formulation of STI policy at the federal level, in support of economic and social objectives. As academics, we can also provide advice to ministers and other senior officials; support, justify, and critique STI program expenditures; provide information on scientific activities for elected officials, journalists, and other stakeholders; and analyse the national system of innovation.
CPROST has six tenured and four adjunct faculty working on these issues at present, in collaboration with a number of associated researchers at other institutions. At any given time, the institute accommodates at least a dozen graduate and undergraduate students, approximately half of whom come from a science or engineering background. CPROST also hosts visiting scholars from a number of countries and currently occupies nine closed offices and four open offices, along with a multipurpose equipment and data storage area.
Currently, CPROST activities fall into the following major areas:
analysis of current and proposed government innovation policies and programs
studies into the factors affecting innovation in regional systems of innovation
studies on indicators of scientific, technological, and innovation performance
research into telecommunications policy as it affects disaster mitigation
studies on the effects of technologies and policies affecting the multimedia industry
an ongoing probe into the user "experience" of new media technologies
studies on the policies and implementation of the Scientific Research and Experimental Development tax credit program
Why would students want to study STI policy?
The STI field is narrow and both federal and provincial governments have been downsizing their policy-making activities over the past few years. But where there are "policy analyst" positions available, a postgraduate degree in some related discipline is generally a requisite, although not necessarily a Ph.D. An academic career, on the other hand, requires the usual doctorate and peer-reviewed publications.
CPROST graduates have generally found employment in areas directly related to their studies in government departments and agencies, not-for-profit think tanks, and consulting firms. The key element in starting their career has been the development of a number of skills that not only cover the academic subjects on which policy analysis is built, but also the "life skills" of preparing and presenting project proposals, communicating research findings, and providing clear and concise advice to senior managers who are not specialists in the field.
Although SFU does not offer a specific postgraduate degree in S&T policy studies, students from a wide variety of disciplines may follow a specific program at CPROST that gives both theory and practical training in S&T policy analysis. This requires the completion of a specific course of studies in the SFU School of Communication, which is part of the Faculty of Applied Science, and practical research and teaching activities showing that they have completed training in both the theory and practice of S&T policy analysis.
Students are always involved in the ongoing research work of the faculty. This work usually falls into two areas: basic research funded by research-granting councils and more applied policy studies funded by a wide variety of public and private agencies. Some examples of our ongoing projects include studies of:
The interaction between commercial technologies and the new, increased standards for drinking water;
The development of wireless Internet devices for use in hostile environments, such as those found during disaster mitigation activities;
Provision of support to the book editor for the journal Science and Public Policy;
Development of a proposal for a quantum-computation laboratory in Vancouver; and
A study on potential gender biases in innovation studies.
There is also a team of research assistants and postdoctoral fellows engaged in a novel form of technology road-mapping, focused on user experience.
At CPROST, we believe there is no substitute for "hands-on" learning. Someone who wishes to enter the world of policy analysis has to learn that no study is ever perfect and that there are always trade-offs among schedule, subject matter, and the depth to which a particular issue is researched. The faculty and graduate students at CPROST take pride in working in a multidisciplinary framework on economic and social problems that have an ongoing impact on Canadian society.
For more information, visit the CPROST Web site or e-mail the director of CPROST, Richard Smith, or the associate director, Adam Holbrook