Bridging Theory and Practice: Enhancing Policy Impact Through Research

Session Report
Apekshya Basnet

Following the remarkable achievements of its inaugural cohort, IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute unveiled the second iteration of the “Public Policy Qualitative Participatory Action Research Fieldwork Fellowship – Cohort 2.0” course, spanning from December 16, 2023, to April 20, 2024.

This intensive four-month program was designed to empower future policymakers, researchers, and legal enthusiasts with fundamental expertise and insights. Utilizing a blend of engaging lectures, hands-on workshops, networking opportunities, and real-world simulations, participants immersed themselves in the intricacies of public policy and its multifaceted impacts on various societal challenges.

The eleventh day of the Public Policy Qualitative Participatory Action Research Fieldwork Fellowship for Cohort 2.0 commenced with Prof. Mukul acknowledging the comprehensive and well-designed integrative program facilitated by IMPRI. He emphasized the significance of publishing research in peer-reviewed journals or other outlets, highlighting its role in expanding researchers’ horizons and enhancing their skills, particularly in the context of India’s position in global social science research.

Program Overview: Public Policy Qualitative Participatory Action Research Fieldwork Fellowship Cohort 2.0

Prof. Asher elaborated on the program’s focus on public policies, qualitative participatory action research, and the vital role of fieldwork fellowship. He underscored the importance of addressing the challenges inherent in such research endeavors and stressed the need for rigorous analysis to ensure meaningful policy impact, despite historical setbacks in this regard.

Prof. Mukul Asher also referenced Sridhar Vembu’s insights into India’s research landscape, highlighting two key observations:

  1. Vembu emphasized the importance of following the scientific method in research, starting with data collection (whether quantitative or qualitative), followed by analysis, then deriving policy implications, and finally expressing views. Prof. Asher expanded on this, stressing the need for public policy education to instill the principles of the scientific method among all participants, including faculty and administrators. With the rise of digital technology, proficiency in data analysis and an understanding of AI are becoming essential components of public policy education. Projects and theses should be structured to showcase competence in numerical literacy whenever possible.
  2. Vembu’s second observation pertained to the tendency of economists trained in the US to uncritically elevate contextual US experiences to the status of universal economic laws. Prof. Asher commented on this, advocating for a focus on local context, empirical studies, and understanding institutional and market structures relevant to public policy in India. He suggested that projects and theses could be designed to enhance understanding in these areas, leveraging the wealth of data available through government schemes and dashboards. Additionally, he proposed giving special emphasis to neglected areas such as research on urban and rural bodies.

Prof. Mukul further contributed by discussing the state of public policy discourse, advocating for improved quality and greater emphasis on quantitative analysis. He cited examples such as the analysis of government programs’ impact at both central and state levels, emphasizing the importance of village-level data in conducting rigorous research.

Furthermore, in the session, he emphasized that qualitative research entails the careful collection and utilization of various empirical materials, including case studies, personal experiences, introspection, life stories, interviews, observations, historical accounts, interactions, and visual texts. These materials aim to illuminate both routine and challenging moments and meanings in individual lives. Qualitative research can function independently or complement quantitative studies.

Drawing from another definition, Prof. Asher also highlighted the importance of understanding the nuances of communication techniques in qualitative research. Additionally, he suggested that the value of qualitative participatory research can be enhanced by cultivating strong writing skills, an aspect often overlooked despite its significance.

Reflection and Learning

Participants were reminded by Prof. Asher that while they receive certificates upon completion of the program, true learning is reflected in their behaviour and actions. He encouraged participants to reflect on their post-program behaviour, aligning with India’s cultural perspective that values education demonstrated through practice.

The discussion expanded to address the philosophical question of the purpose of knowledge, with emphasis placed on the importance of good intent accompanying knowledge and skills. Prof. Asher highlighted the transformative potential of the program in shaping participants’ behaviour and skill sets.

Research Methodology and Literacy

The session delved into the significance of research methodology, data literacy, and numerical competence, particularly in the era of artificial intelligence. Prof. Asher stressed the importance of contextualizing research within local contexts and the relevance of empirical studies, institutional frameworks, and market structures in informing public policy decisions.

In this session, the various challenges in translating research findings into actionable policy suggestions were discussed. There was an emphasis on the importance of implementation strategies and the recognition of the subjective nature of statistics and data interpretation.

The session concluded with best wishes extended to all participants as they continue their professional journeys, equipped with the skills and knowledge gained from the fellowship program. Recognition was given to the facilitators for their commendable public service, and participants were praised for their commitment to skill acquisition.

In summary, day 11 of the Public Policy Qualitative Participatory Action Research Fieldwork Fellowship – Cohort 2 provided a comprehensive overview of the program’s objectives, challenges, and recommendations, fostering meaningful dialogue among participants and facilitators on the future of social science research and policy implementation in India.

Read more at IMPRI:

Artificial Intelligence Tools in Research

Careers in Public Policy Research: A Guide for Aspiring Researchers

Acknowledgment: Apekshya Basnet is a research intern at IMPRI.