General objective
Specific objectives

Capacity building

Review of research proposals
Format for research proposals
Peer review of research proposals
Monitoring and evaluation
Dissemination of research output/ results

The National Research Council of Malawi (NRCM) was established in 1974 to promote and co-ordinate all research activities at national level and ensure that any research project proposed for execution is geared to national development needs and goals. To execute this mandate, procedures and guidelines for research clearance were established in 1989. While respect is paid to the 1989 first edition of these guidelines, it was noted with concern that under these guidelines, research clearance took long and researchers could not implement projects in time hence, in some instances they could lose funds earmarked for the projects. The system was also infringing on the rights and freedoms of researchers. To facilitate the speedy approval of research projects, some of the functions of the Council were, thus, decentralized to sectoral institutions from September 1993.

In light of the current dispensation and given the proliferation of research institutions, NRCM is required to provide the general framework and guidelines for the conduct of research in the country as contained in this revised edition. In undertaking these functions, the Council shall be guided by constitutional principles such as those relating to freedom of access to information, academic freedom, freedom of expression and other related principles (see the Republic of Malawi Constitution, 1999 Chapter IV); and the National Science and Technology Policy which provides for all types of research (natural/basic and social sciences and the arts).

These guidelines and procedures have been formulated to enhance the quality of research in order to achieve competitiveness and relevance at national, regional and international levels.

The guidelines and procedures will help the NRCM and sectoral institutions to:

  1. Appraise proposals for scientific, professional and ethical merits
  2. Provide mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation of research projects and activities
  3. Provide a framework for collaboration among researchers within the country and with international researchers
  4. Promote originality and complementarity in research in order to avoid unnecessary duplication
  5. Promote capacity building and encourage the development of sectoral programmes and research agenda vi Ensure proper collection, acquisition, storage and management of research information


4.1 Research
The word research has variably been taken as “those fundamental scientific activities designed to extend the boundaries of our knowledge”, or as “a constant pushing forward of the frontiers of knowledge”, or “a systematic intensive investigation directed towards fuller knowledge of the subject studied”. Research, however, is generally defined as any creative systematic activity undertaken to increase the stock of scientific and technical knowledge and to devise new applications. Research whose primary or ultimate objective is a better understanding of whatever phenomena are involved, including the discovery or elucidation of general principles and laws, is referred to as basic, fundamental, or pure research. This type of research is found to lead to discoveries of practical importance.

Applied research on the other hand is an investigation that is pursued with the main objective of finding solutions of practical problems. Research that is conducted with the main objective of obtaining products or processes is referred to as experimental or developmental research. This type of research has objectives similar to those of applied research but it takes into account the fact that in applying recognised scientific principles in industry much additional research may be necessary in adapting laboratory procedures to large-scale operations.

4.2. Scientific Expedition
A scientific expedition is an organised tour of scientific interest usually for short periods. The tour may include observation of some phenomena but does not include generation of knowledge or data on systematic basis that would normally fall under research proper. Where there is doubt as to whether a project is an expedition or a research project, it must be treated as a research project.

4.3. Consultancies
Certain types of consultancies will be treated as research projects. These are consultancies that generate and analyse data. For purposes of research approval, consultancies exclude professional services where the practice involves application of existing knowledge rather than generation and analysis of data.

The Government of Malawi requires that foreign researchers intending to conduct research in this country should arrange for affiliation to Malawian research institutions to promote collaboration, improve on capacity building and exchange of expertise. Affiliation constitutes a contract between the foreign researchers and the affiliating institution. The latter will ensure that the researcher carries out investigations according to the agreed research methods and will monitor progress of the project. The ownership of the data generated from any research conducted in Malawi remains with the Malawi Government, irrespective of the source of finance of the research project. The researcher (either foreign or local) shall make available to Malawi at least four copies of all research findings obtained from the research work, two of which will be deposited at the National Archives and the NRCM besides the affiliating and other relevant sectoral institutions. To facilitate the affiliation criteria, the Council shall compile up-to-date directories and bibliographies of all institutions (public, parastatal, private and NGOs) affiliated to it.

6.0 FEES
When need arises, sectoral research co-ordinating committees or institutions shall charge certain reasonable fees as part of sources of their income. These shall be charged for affiliation arrangements and/or research proposal review process. Such fees, however, shall need to be defined following the categories of researchers. The following guidelines shall apply;

  1. Sectoral Research Co-ordinating Committees shall define guidelines on the amount and types of such fees to be paid by either a foreign researcher or Malawian researcher
  2. Sectoral Research Co-ordinating Committees/institutions should determine such fees in form of pegging fixed actual amounts as opposed to pegging a percentage of the total budget of the research study as the latter may circumstantially be too costly on the part of the researcher
  3. Sectoral Research Co-ordinating Committees/ Institutions shall submit their levels of fees to the National Research Council of Malawi for government endorsement and record keeping.

Generally, research projects should have a capacity building component for local personnel and the affiliating institutions. This will depend, however, on the duration, nature and scale of the project.


  1. Approval of projects shall be done by sectoral research committees on behalf of the NRCM,
  2. Review of multisectoral projects shall involve all relevant sectoral committees,
  3. Projects that involve the collection of genetic resources and human parts are treated as special projects. Unless otherwise stated, these shall be reviewed and approved at a central level by the Genetic Resources and Biotechnology Committee of the NRCM (Where sectoral research procedures and guidelines exist, these should be adhered to by both local and foreign researchers, where they do not exist sectoral committees/institutions should strive to develop them and get government endorsement through the NRCM).
  4. The sectoral research committee shall issue a contract agreement with the researcher prior to executing the research project The contract agreement shall include the following:
    1. projectís code number
    2. name(s) of researcher(s)
    3. title of the project
    4. duration of the project
    5. statement indicating number of copies of the final report to be submitted (at least four)
    6. statement indicating ability and willingness of the researcher to abide by procedures and guidelines for conduct of research in Malawi
    7. signatures and date
  5. All sectoral research committees shall have representation from NRCM vi Chairpersons of sectoral committees shall be members of the relevant technical committee responsible for the conduct of research in the NRCM

Project proposals shall generally be prepared according to the following format:

Note: Funding agencies may have different requirements

Sectoral research committees are required to consider the following key issues in peer review of research projects:

  1. Scientific merit
  2. Level of collaboration
  3. Professional and ethical issues (eg confidentiality, prior informed consent, justice etc)

  4. National benefits (capacity building, patents, conservation of natural resources and knowledge gathering etc)

  5. Monitoring and evaluation
  6. Dissemination and technology transfer
  7. Significance/relevance
  8. Literature Review
  9. Objectives
  10. Contribution
  11. Results
  12. Research Design and Methodology
  13. Budget
  14. Collaboration
  15. Monitoring and Evaluation
    • Project work plan and tools (specify)
  16. Dissemination
    • Are proposed strategies viable?
  17. Resources
    • Are the resources (e.g. support staff, laboratory space, equipment and facilities adequate?)

Research requires an effective monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system that enables the assessment of performance, resource utilization, impact and effectiveness of a programme. It is, therefore, important that a proper M & E system be implemented for S & T in Malawi to ensure proper accountability at both national and sectoral level.

11.1 National Level
The National Research Council of Malawi (NRCM) shall be responsible for monitoring and evaluating research projects at a national level. This will be done in order to strengthen the M & E system instituted by the various Sectoral Research Committees. The following shall be the means by which NRCM will achieve proper monitoring of research programmes at national level:

  1. NRCM shall be a member of all the Sectoral Research Committees
  2. NRCM shall compile a National Directory of Research Projects, based on sectoral reports and institutional directories.
  3. NRCM shall prepare an annual State of Science and Technology Report for the Nation which will include summaries of research programmes, research highlights and resources that shall be obtained from the sectoral institutions, departments and ministries
  4. NRCM shall organise such annual national S&T forum/conference and produce a national S&T publication comprising papers presented at the forum/conference.
  5. NRCM shall develop a Website that will be open to other institutions wishing to use it to mount their information.
  6. NRCM shall arrange for occasional field visits as and when necessary with the various sectoral committees.
  7. NRCM shall assess objectives, research directories, research reports research capacity, training and infrastructure needs for all sectoral research committees and their institutions. It shall also carry out an evaluation of whether research programmes address the institutional objectives and national goals and objectives.
  8. NRCM shall also facilitate the dissemination of research outputs and technologies and their popularization through the electronic media using the available human resources from the sectors.

11.2 Sectoral Level
At the sectoral level, designated Sectoral Research Committees (SRCs) shall be responsible for monitoring and evaluating research programmes of their respective institutions. They shall be responsible for designing appropriate formats for the M & E system. In general, the tools used at this level shall include;

11.2.1 Progress reports
Each Sectoral Research Committee shall determine the appropriate number of progress reports to be submitted by the researcher during the life of the project. Progress reports should cover the following:

  1. overview of the study
  2. objectives of the project
  3. stage at which the project is
  4. actual activities done and a summary of what has, and has not been accomplished at that stage of the study
  5. interpretation of new findings
  6. summarized results including tables and graphs
  7. revised plan of the next activities
  8. operational problems if any and suggested solutions and whether the project objectives are being addressed
  9. likelihood of the success of the project
  10. financial statement for the period covered by the report showing the budget and expenditure
  11. an indication of objectives which have not been achieved and indicating reasons.

11.2.2 Final report
The final report shall include:

  1. An executive summary
  2. Acknowledgement of source of funding or any technical assistance
  3. A detailed table of contents (including a list of figures, tables, abbreviations, acronyms etc)
  4. An introduction (incorporating the background, problem statement and objectives)
  5. Literature review of what has been locally and internationally/achieved
  6. Materials and methods, indicating use of resources
  7. Detailed analyzed data
  8. Results and discussion section which should include details of analysed data, relating data to the objectives and past findings, establishing trends and explaining the findings.
  9. Conclusion, recommendations, take home messages and scope for further work if any
  10. References and
  11. Appendices containing supporting data that will strengthen the results and findings.

11.2.3 Field Visits
Field visits are a very important part of the M & E system as they show the situation on the ground and are a good reflection of actual progress and practical problems. They should form an integral part of the institutional monitoring system. Sectoral Research Committees will be required to draw up a schedule of visits and shall appoint a competent monitoring team. Such a team would need to have the original project proposal including its budget and a plan of action. The Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) team shall develop a form and undertake the following M&E tasks:

  1. Evaluate progress of the research at each stage in the plan of action
  2. . Examine the relevance of each activity in fulfilling the objectives
  3. Assess operational problems and solicit solutions on how to overcome these
  4. Assess whether scientists are using conventional or standard methodologies for which research projects were approved in the conduct of their work
  5. Assess whether there are any changes or modifications to the original programme or plan of action and whether these have been explained
  6. Where ethics apply, assess if they have been observed
  7. Assess the application of resources being used e.g. human, financial, equipment, infrastructure and transport
  8. Assess the degree of participation, involvement and skills development among collaborators
  9. Assess quality of work
  10. Make specific recommendations

11.2.4 Institutional Annual Research Meetings and Field Days
SRCs and their institutions shall organise annual research meetings, seminars, conferences and field days during which time research projects shall be open to review by stakeholders.

The dissemination of research outputs and technologies should be seen as part and parcel of the system. It needs to be built in from the research proposal stage through to the budgeting system and implementation of any research programme. To ensure that this is achieved, the following guidelines need to be followed:

  1. Each SRC may form a sub-committee on technology release and dissemination. The main task for this committee would be to ensure that research outputs/technologies reach end-users. It would, therefore, be responsible for publishing circulars and organizing events for specific technologies dissemination.
  2. Each SRC or institution shall establish a specific budget line on dissemination. This should become a requirement for each research proposal.
  3. Institutions shall produce annual reports that will show organisationsí setup, performance, available resources, summaries of R&D programmes and activities, and results of research projects undertaken during the year. Such reports shall form the basis of the National S&T publication.
  4. Institutions shall produce occasional papers including research bulletins and circulars; and popular publications with simplified results that can be prepared for the media.
  5. Institutions shall develop web-sites and take advantage of the electronic media for features and interviews.
  6. Institutions shall encourage and support researchers to publish results in local and international journals.
  7. Institutions shall exhibit technologies at trade fairs and be able to make them available to users.
  8. Institutions shall organise theme specific S&T conferences/symposia ix. Institutions/sectors shall compile annual directories of research projects.

© 2003 NRCM.    Site developed by Malawi SDNP