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
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).
2.0 GENERAL OBJECTIVE
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.
3.0 SPECIFIC OBJECTIVES
The guidelines and procedures will help the NRCM and sectoral institutions to:
Appraise proposals for scientific, professional and ethical merits
Provide mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation of research projects and
Provide a framework for collaboration among researchers within the country
and with international researchers
Promote originality and complementarity in research in order to avoid unnecessary
Promote capacity building and encourage the development of sectoral programmes
and research agenda
vi Ensure proper collection, acquisition, storage and management of 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
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.
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.
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;
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
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
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.
7.0 CAPACITY BUILDING
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.
8.0 REVIEW OF RESEARCH PROPOSALS
Approval of projects shall be done by sectoral research committees
on behalf of the NRCM,
Review of multisectoral projects shall involve all relevant sectoral
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
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).
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:
projectís code number
name(s) of researcher(s)
title of the project
duration of the project
statement indicating number of copies of the final report to be
submitted (at least four)
statement indicating ability and willingness of the researcher to
abide by procedures and guidelines for conduct of research in Malawi
signatures and date
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
9.0 FORMAT FOR RESEARCH PROPOSALS
Project proposals shall generally be prepared according to the following format:
Names of investigators and qualifications (their CVs should be appended)
Institution of affiliation (local or international)
General and specific objectives
Methodology/Materials and methods
Work Plan (roles and responsibilities, monitoring and evaluation tools)
Strategies of dissemination of research results
Source of funding (proposed)
Note: Funding agencies may have different requirements
10.0 PEER REVIEW OF RESEARCH PROPOSALS
Sectoral research committees are required to consider the following key issues in peer review of research projects:
Level of collaboration
ethical issues (eg confidentiality, prior informed consent, justice etc)
National benefits (capacity
building, patents, conservation of natural resources and knowledge gathering
Monitoring and evaluation
is the research
testing a sound scientific hypothesis, developing a new technology,
seeking to improve
or document a new technique, technology
original and innovative is the proposed research?
Sectoral research committees (SCRs) shall determine the quality of proposed
research projects according to the following appraisal criteria
Is there adequate
data to demonstrate the feasibility or focus of the project?
the proposed project demonstrate awareness of the previous and
to the identified
specific objectives clear and consistent with the problem statement?
relevant/important is the proposed research to the community?
does the project increase knowledge?
research consistent with national goals and aspirations?
significant will be the impact of the results?
is the probability of success of the project within the time
Design and Methodology
are the strengths and weaknesses in the design, strategy or methodology?
the work-plan follow the most logical approach?
adequate time been allocated?
methodology well described, suitable and feasible? How
will the data be managed and analyzed?
the budget adequate and consistent with specified activities?
is the partner’s
and workload of each partner collaborator
Monitoring and Evaluation
Project work plan and tools (specify)
Are proposed strategies viable?
Are the resources (e.g. support staff, laboratory space, equipment and facilities
11.0 MONITORING AND EVALUATION
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:
NRCM shall be a member of all the Sectoral Research Committees
NRCM shall compile a National Directory of Research Projects, based on
sectoral reports and institutional directories.
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
NRCM shall organise
such annual national S&T forum/conference and produce a national S&T
publication comprising papers presented at the forum/conference.
NRCM shall develop a Website that will be open to other institutions wishing
to use it to mount their information.
NRCM shall arrange
for occasional field visits as and when necessary with the various sectoral
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
and national goals and objectives.
NRCM shall also facilitate
the dissemination of research outputs and technologies and their popularization
through the electronic media
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
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
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:
overview of the study
objectives of the project
stage at which the project is
actual activities done and a summary
of what has, and has not been accomplished at that stage of the study
interpretation of new findings
summarized results including tables
revised plan of the next activities
operational problems if any and suggested
solutions and whether the project objectives are being addressed
likelihood of the success of the project
financial statement for the period covered
by the report showing the budget and expenditure
an indication of objectives which have
not been achieved and indicating reasons.
11.2.2 Final report
The final report shall include:
An executive summary
Acknowledgement of source of funding or any technical assistance
A detailed table of contents (including a list of figures, tables, abbreviations,
An introduction (incorporating the background, problem statement and objectives)
Literature review of what has been locally and internationally/achieved
Materials and methods, indicating use of resources
Detailed analyzed data
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.
Conclusion, recommendations, take home messages and scope for further
work if any
Appendices containing supporting data that will strengthen the results
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:
Evaluate progress of the research at each stage in the plan of action
. Examine the relevance of each activity in fulfilling the objectives
Assess operational problems and solicit solutions on how to overcome
Assess whether scientists are using conventional or standard methodologies
for which research projects were approved in the conduct of their work
Assess whether there are any changes or modifications to the original programme
or plan of action and whether these have been explained
Where ethics apply, assess if they have been observed
Assess the application of resources being used e.g. human, financial,
equipment, infrastructure and transport
Assess the degree of participation, involvement and skills development
Assess quality of work
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.
12.0 DISSEMINATION OF RESEARCH OUTPUT/ RESULTS
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:
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.
Each SRC or institution shall establish a specific budget line on dissemination.
This should become a requirement for each research proposal.
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
Institutions shall produce occasional papers including research bulletins
and circulars; and popular publications with simplified results that can
be prepared for the media.
Institutions shall develop web-sites and take advantage of the electronic
media for features and interviews.
Institutions shall encourage and support researchers to publish results
in local and international journals.
Institutions shall exhibit technologies at trade fairs and be able to
make them available to users.
Institutions shall organise
theme specific S&T conferences/symposia
ix. Institutions/sectors shall compile annual directories of research projects.