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Speakers for bridging research-policymaking gap

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May 1, 2011

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Islamabad
The Unveiling of the first volume of the Journal of Social and Policy Sciences (J-SAPS) a bi-annual, peer-reviewed research journal produced by the Institute of Social and Policy Sciences (I-SAPS) was no ordinary event. The quality of the intellectual discourse that took place, coupled with the calibre of the speakers and the participants, added spark to what could predictably have been a mundane ritual. The production of a high-class journal that has all the potential to capture serious readership and quality contributions, and to win national and international acceptance made J-SAPS labour of love truly worthwhile.
Eminent economists, educationists, reviewers and commentators of the journal, and representatives of the academia, civil society and media constituted the select audience. Professor Dr. Syed Nawab Haider Naqvi, director general of the Federal Urdu University for Arts, Science and Technology and a former director of the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) delivered the keynote address on the occasion. Other speakers included the executive director of J-SAPS Dr. Salman Humayun, the editor of J-SAPS Dr. Safdar Sohail, member of the editorial board of the journal Dr. Ather Maqsood Ahmad, national institutional advisor to the Planning Commission of Pakistan Dr. Vaqar Ahmed, and former principal economic advisor to the Ministry of Finance Sakib Sherani.
Established in 1998 with a vision to contribute towards economic development through production of knowledge, I-SAPS has been playing a pivotal role in overcoming the existing research deficit in Pakistan and establishing linkages between research and policy-making. The launching of J-SAPS is just one of the outcomes of its ongoing interventions in the said direction.
Addressing the gathering, Professor Dr. Naqvi conceded having been struck by the beauty of the journal, on account of its content as well as outlook. Having praised J-SAPS for the effort, he warned

that starting a journal may be difficult indeed, but the real challenge lies in sustaining it. He advised the editorial collective to uphold transparency and honesty, to be prepared to offend friends if the publication s quality is to be maintained, and to guard against delays in publishing of the journal and restriction of its scope to contributions by Pakistani writers.
Dr. Vaqar Ahmad, who has contributed an article to the journal, raised pertinent questions about factors responsible for the current research deficit in Pakistan. With reference to J-SAPS, he offered useful suggestions for enhancing the publication s visibility in the public domain by harnessing the social media. Dr. Ather Maqsood termed research as being crucial for determining economic growth over time. He informed that the maiden issue of the journal contains two local and three international papers. With an editorial board having internationally acclaimed scholars including Mahmood Mamdani, Pal Ahluwalia, Christophe Jafferlot, Faisal Bari, Frank Henry Healey III, and Ather Maqsood himself, the journal has all the ingredients to make a mark in no time.
Dr. Safdar Sohail took pride in being associated with a policy centre, which is seriously engaging in academically-scientific research. The solid, serious side of J-SAPS is now visible, he joyously remarked. As editor of the journal, he assured the august gathering that the multi-disciplinary foundation of the publication would be upheld.
Dr. Salman Hamayun, highlighted the rationale of the journal and pointed out how the recent intellectual and policy responses to the nature and direction of development and social change in Pakistan have not been attending to a host of critical issues in theory and practice. There seem to be key assumptions that need to be examined and thought through while producing knowledge in response to Pakistan s challenges in particular and the region in general. He stated that the institute aspires to make J-SAPS a vehicle of choice for production and organization of quality research and knowledge.
Sakib Sherani drew attention to the declining standards of social science research in Pakistan on account of lack of demand for and supply of research. He was of the view that the demand for research-based policy-making in Pakistan is non-existent and is yet to be institutionalised. It s great to see an indigenous research publication with a solid editorial team, he stated in conclusion while also appreciated the fact that the articles in the journal are not donor-driven or commercially funded.
Dr. Salman Humayun was one happy man. We have a passion to contribute to the production of Pakistan-specific knowledge, he said. The executive director of J-SAPS also shared details of the Institute s forthcoming colloquium before opening the house for a discussion. Prominent among the discussants was the vice chancellor of Quaid-i-Azam University, who congratulated J-SAPS for the initiative and cautioned the institute, By starting a journal, you have asked for trouble. He was concerned that the Journal may not be able to lure most productive social scientists for contributions, as the publication is yet to carve a niche for itself. Another discussant, Dr. Hens Frey floated the idea of promoting community-based participatory research.
Overall, the mood was one of contentment that comes from achieving a milestone. All the participants and guests appreciated the efforts of J-SAPS to contribute towards the academic culture in Pakistan and expressed support for an initiative that is cardinal for the growth of research.

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