by Rebha Sabharwal, Arizona State University
Earlier this year, the UN predicted that our planet will be home to around 10 billion people by the end of this century. Scary as that sounds, we are already at the 7 billion mark and we still have around 90 years to go. India alone makes up around 17 percent of the current world population, and that is worrying because the population is still growing. As a doctoral student at Arizona State University who is interested in fertility issues, India’s growing population and diminishing resources are causes of concern for me. A PRB policy communication fellowship that would teach me how to bring my concerns to a wider audience was an opportunity that I did not want to pass up.
For the past couple of years, I have spent day after day sitting at my desk looking at data. I mainly work with the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) from India. I look at how things have changed over time and where India is going with its population growth. I think about issues that I feel are important for my country and how I can bring them to light by presenting at academic conferences and publishing in peer-reviewed journals. I’m a researcher-in-training, and this is what I do all the time. I feel like I am getting my concerns out there…or am I?
Maybe I’m not. Apart from my circle of academics who are interested in fertility issues, who will really know what I find? I’m working on son preference in India and how it is driving our growing population. That is what my dissertation deals with and I think I will find some interesting results. So what? So what if my results are exciting and interesting? What do they lead to? Those are the questions the PRB workshop has taught me to ask. And even if I can answer them in my head, can I put them down in a coherent non-academic, non-boring way?
Being part of the DC workshop organized by PRB was a life-changer of sorts. Trying to convert a research paper into an interesting document for policymakers is a lot harder than it sounds. Leaving behind everything that I have learned in grad school is hard and it is even harder to closely look at the impact of my own work. I will never again look at a paper in the same way. This workshop made me realize that as researchers and policy communication fellows, PRB has given us a unique tool . We can be part of a bigger picture – understanding what policymakers need from us to make their decisions. We learned how to get our research results though to a policy audience and be effective in our presentations. For me personally, I can now think a bit differently about my work on India’s growing population. It wasn’t an easy road by any means. But it doesn’t need to be easy, it just needs to be possible…and the PRB workshop gave us the first step.
by Ezinwanne Dike, 2011-2012 PRB Fellow, University of Ibadan, Nigeria
For me, the PRB workshop was quite enlightening. I realized that a lot of research has been conducted in Africa and quite a number of African scholars have come up with cutting-edge publications in high-impact academic journals. However, most African countries are either underdeveloped or still developing because most of the research findings are not adequately leveraged for policymaking. I realized that when policies are made based on research evidence and are adequately implemented, growth and sustainable development is guaranteed. It would be great if researchers identify their policy audiences and enlighten them about the implications of their research, helping policymakers base policies on research evidence.