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D Current Issues on the Utilization of Scientific Findings Hassan Zohoor Academy of Sciences of Iran T he utilization of information, knowledge, and science in the processes of decision-making, policy-making, and planning is an issue that every country in the world faces. Research, as the most essential process for the production of new knowledge, has been for a long time of prime significance both in developing and developed nations. Each society makes every effort to advance science as the most developed stage of knowledge and to exchange and utilize science for increasing knowledge. Each country strives to identify methods for the improvement of cooperation between researchers and decision makers and consequently for increasing the effectiveness of decisions made for comprehensive development. This is the traditional concept of the role of research and development. The aim of the author is not to provide a list of issues and obstacles but to analyze the types of relationships between scientific findings, decisions, and development planning as well as to provide strategies for the improvement of such relationships. To define the role that science can play in the process of development and to introduce methods for the improvement of such a role and for strengthening of the links between scientific findings, decisions, and policies, we should review some of the issues and limitations. It is important to study the utilization of scientific findings in decision-making and strategies for its improvement as well as to trace the role of science and scientific findings in plans and programs. In this way, we can discuss the utilization of scientific findings without any nonscientific bias and arrive at a reasonable approach for laying the groundwork for utilization of scientific findings. 112
APPENDIX D 113 One of the best approaches is to define benchmarks for the level of science utilization. Then the attainment level could be measured according to those benchmarks in each society and even in each economic sector of a society. UTILIZATION OF SCIENTIFIC FINDINGS: VISIONS AND CONCEPTS The interrelationship of science and research on the one hand and growth and development on the other is an established reality. Research denotes the discovery of new facts and their utilization for problem solving. Failing to use scientific findings is equal to wasting human and material resources and to casting negative judgments toward the profitability of investments in science. The development of information networks at every decision-making institu- tion has resulted in easy access to scientific findings. One can have access to the most complex information in the shortest possible time. In recent years, research and science production have been the focus of attention at many organizations. Government policies are based on strengthening and developing a productive research atmosphere. Developing countries, how- ever, are at the beginning of this path. Because of a variety of factors, including software and hardware deficiencies, poor context and attitude, and inadequate human resources, the state of science and scientific applications in promoting the development of society is not yet at a desirable level. So far, much has been written about the relationship between decision-making, research, and informa- tion. Some reports concentrate on policy makersâ and decision makersâ inadequate attention to scientific findings. Others propose some ways for the enhancement of the impact of research on decision-making. No studies have addressed the role of science utilization. Although interna- tional agencies have set some indicators for science production processes (e.g., development factors related to universities and research institutes), none has set criteria for science utilization. An important point is the attitude and expectation of managers toward the term utilization of scientific findings. Some findings have closer affinity to the term utilization and are actually application oriented. Some are far from appli- cation and provide a basis for subsequent research that may take an applied direction. Recognition of the reasons for failing to apply scientific findings will cer- tainly play a part in increasing decision makersâ and plannersâ attention to the application of such findings. Changing our attitudes toward the concept of utili- zation of scientific findings will revolutionize the role of research and scientific findings in the process of development. However, if we limit utilization exclu- sively to research and applied findings, then basic research, aimed at broadening the horizon of knowledge, will be put aside from the domain of knowledge. The existing view on the utilization of science and research limits utilization to a
114 APPENDIX D small window of time and place. There are many cases of scientific and research findings having profound, widespread influence on the views of the public at large and decision makers in particular, resulting in a significant role in public enlightenment. Without well-defined criteria, as mentioned before, there cannot be any accurate assessment and reasonable judgment about the status of science utiliza- tion, its improvement, and its position in a society compared with societies in other countries. In addition to the existing limited view of the utilization of scientific findings, there are numerous obstacles related to different areas which inhibit the desirable use of scientific findings. We may summarize some of these limitations, ranging from the irrelevancy of research topics to societal needs, poor quality of research, lack of relationship between scientific findings and societal demand, lack of belief in the research findings of decision makers and managers, and limitations in the acquisition of information. TRENDS IN USING SCIENTIFIC FINDINGS IN DEVELOPMENT The utilization of scientific findings denotes the payoff from scientific and research activities. Contrary to popular belief, utilization is quite a complex pro- cess and is the subject of dispute among researchers and decision makers. Today, the main debate centers around how to utilize scientific results better and more safely and thereby enhance the impact of scientific findings in the development of societies. The production of science is a dynamic and lasting process with no defini- tive end. The publication of a scientific report may be considered the conclud- ing point for a scientific finding, but the research process continues. Todayâs research is founded on yesterdayâs, and tomorrowâs research relies on existing research results. While research is a continuum of related items, scientific find- ings are set forth in a broad spectrum of micro- and macro-applications. The micro-Âapplications are at one end of the spectrum and comprise impacts on small societies, which may in some cases be extended to other, larger societies. The macro-applications are at the other end and embrace effects on decisions and policies at the national and, occasionally, international levels. CONCLUSION Studies of the utilization of scientific findings and the identification of con- straints for their fulfillment at an optimum level for the acceleration of develop- ment will to some degree clarify how to approach a desirable level of utilization. The strategies for effective use of scientific findings necessitate the removal of already-known obstacles and limitations and, partially, the use of new methods for expediting this process. We may consider the process of science production
APPENDIX D 115 and application as a unique system, a group of pieces and parts that are connected to each other and work together. In this system, some of the proposed strate- gies for the improvement of utilization are internal and some are external. For example, giving priority to scientific fields and programs that are required for the development of society is obviously important. Conducting research to provide qualitative scientific findings and taking into account the applicability of such findings is critical. Disseminating the culture of believing in science to managers and preventing them from making decisions on the basis of their own taste are significant objectives. Of course, providing essential financial resources as well as appropriate legal and organizational support is essential for the improvement of science production and utilization. Considering the process of science production and utilization as one sys- tem has advantages that should be examined. Utilization would be addressed as one of the integrated parts in the promotion of science and, subsequently, development. The author believes that existing research obstacles should be removed. However, more important in the improvement of utilization of scientific findings is encouraging managers to base their decisions on research findings. In cases where there exists a variety of research in one area, managers have learned to add research conclusions to each othersâ information and make use of meta-analysis rather than putting conclusions next to one another and accepting non-scientific considerations. On the other hand, in the absence or inaccessibility of scientific findings in an area, they have learned to avoid hasty decisions and have developed a sense of responsibility for requesting research in that area. Finally, the most important approach that should be adopted in this context is the inclusion of science utilization in development indicators. Some criteria and benchmarks should be developed for the utilization of scientific findings in different areas. The most appropriate bodies for developing such criteria are international scientific agencies. These criteria in different science areas along with their defined indicators could provide a comprehensive strategy for measur- ing, evaluating, comparing, and improving the utilization of scientific findings in different societies. BIBLIOGRAPHY Aghazadeh, A. 1996. Ways of accommodating the utilization of research findings. Quarterly Journal of Education Research 23:6â14. International Bureau of Education and National Institute for Educational Research. 1995. Final Report of the International Meeting on Educational Reform and Educational Research: New Challenges in Linking Research, Information, and Decision-making, Tokyo, September 4â14. Geneva: International Bureau of Education. Funk, S. G., E. M. Tornquist, and M. T. Champagne. 1995. Barriers and facilitators of research utiliza- tion: An integrative review. Nursing Clinics of North America 30:395â407.
116 APPENDIX D Ordonez, V., and Maclean, R. 1997. The impact of educational research on decision-making in educa- tion. In Teachers, Teacher Education and Development: Report on an APEID Regional Meeting of Directors of Educational Research and Development Institutes in the Asia and the Pacific Region: Final Report of a Regional Meeting 7â15 July 1997, Kokuritsu Kyoiku Kenkyujo. Tokyo: National Institute for Educational Research. Saki, R. 2001. Utilization of research: A wide and multi-level concept. Education Research NewsÂ letter (10):18â19. Stone, D., S. Maxwell, and M. Keating. 2001. Bridging research and policy. Presented at an Inter- national Workshop Funded by the UK Department for International Development, Warwick University, Coventry, UK, July 16â17. Available at: http://www.gdnet.org/pdf/Bridging.pdf. Accessed August 21, 2007.