“A fight between two bald men over a comb”

This proverb was used for war and conflict situations where the two sides benefit nothing from the fighting. They fight but for nothing. The end result of the fight is simply a significant loss of lives and resources. There will be no success at all. If there is any, that should be a lesser loss/damage resulting from the fighting.

This fight has been extended to a ‘cold war of words’ between researchers and policy makers. The war is similar to a blaming game. One blame the other for one thing or another thing. The information about the fighting is in public domain. It is about the generation and use of research evidence.

Policy people say that many researchers are not generating the right evidence, at the right time, and in the right form. Adding to this, they also stress that researchers generate evidence for their own sake and then try to fit that in to policy agenda. Moreover, policy makers emphasize that they will face challenges if they try to use evidence where they were not involved in its generation. In this regard, they consider those researchers as ‘doctors who prescribe drugs without consulting the patient and later complain about adherence to treatment.’

Researchers, on the other hand, claim that the evidence they have been generating is useful but is not being used. They report that the research-policy gap is so wide because policy makers lack the capacity to understand scientific evidence and thus that information need to be presented in ‘lay language.’ They also add that policy makers have no time to read through the scientific literature. In sum, they say policy makers are ‘scientifically weak’ and usually busy with meetings while this may not be the reality.

Like the case of the two bald men fighting over a comb, this war of words takes us nowhere. The solution is to stop the fight and explore ways to collaborate on common interests. This has already started but needs to be further strengthened.