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Call for proposals to strengthen the use of data and evidence in policy and decision-making by Africa’s Science Granting Councils 

The Science Granting Councils Initiative is calling for proposals that will strengthen the capacity of councils to collect, analyze and use data in a way that facilitates their roles as boundary actors. 

1.  Executive summary   

The Science Granting Councils Initiative in sub-Saharan Africa (SGCI) invites project proposals from organizations (including think tanks, institutes, universities and agencies) with proven experience and track records to strengthen the use of data and evidence in policy and decision-making by Africa’s councils. Through a new SGCI partnership with the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation and IDRC, funding of up to CAD$1,350,000 is available for this work over a period of approximately 34 months. IDRC will enter into an agreement with the successful organization.

The following section provides the project’s background, context and potential objectives and approach. Applicants are expected to use this information only as a guide in developing their proposals. Proposals need not be limited to the points outlined below and originality/creativity will be among the key evaluation criteria.

2.  Science Granting Councils Initiative in sub-Saharan Africa   

Science granting councils (and related organizations such as Commissions and Funds) perform crucial functions that contribute to the effective and efficient functioning of national science, technology and innovation systems. These functions vary from country to country but include the disbursement of grants for research, development and innovation;  building research capacity through scholarships and bursaries; setting and monitoring research agendas and priorities; issuing research permits; formulating/revising national STI policies; providing policy advice to governments; managing bilateral/multilateral STI agreements; and monitoring and assessing the impacts of publicly funded research (and research funded from other sources). 

Box 1: Participating SGCI countries

Botswana, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe

The Science Granting Councils Initiative in sub-Saharan Africa (SGCI) has been supported by several funders since 2015, namely the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, IDRC, South Africa’s National Research Fund, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the German Research Foundation and most recently the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation. The focus of the Initiative has been on strengthening the capacities of councils to support research and evidence-based policies that can contribute to economic and social development. The councils from 15 countries (Box 1) have been actively involved in the Initiative. Nigeria joined the Initiative in mid-2021, bringing the total number of SGCI councils to 16. There is an opportunity for Sierra Leone to join in the near future.     

SGCI initially focused on strengthening the ability of the councils to manage research; design and monitor research programs and formulate and implement policies based on the use of STI indicators; support knowledge exchange with the private sector; and establish partnerships among councils and with other science system actors. In its current second phase, work with the councils in these areas has deepened and broadened, with additional attention to research excellence, strategic communications/ uptake of knowledge outputs, and gender equality and inclusivity (Box 2). Councils received funding to manage research calls and have drawn on their enhanced capacities to promote collaborative research projects and networking. 

Box 2: SGCI-2 Themes

Theme 1: Strengthen the ability of science granting councils in research management

Theme 2: Strengthen the capacity of science granting councils to use data and evidence in policy and decision-making 

Theme 3: Support the ability of science granting councils to fund research and innovation

Theme 4: Support strategic communications, uptake of knowledge outputs and networking

Theme 5: Strengthen the capacities of science granting councils in gender equality and inclusivity

3.  Project background and context   

There is increasing demand for and interest in the use of data and evidence by African government ministries and agencies, regional and continental bodies, and public sector funding bodies (including science granting councils) to demonstrate the impacts of public investments in STI programs and other development interventions. Data and evidence are increasingly used to formulate, review and implement STI policies, strategies and programs/ projects. However, the capacity of African countries to make policy and other decisions based on concrete evidence remains limited. The African Science, Technology, and Innovation Indicators Initiative (ASTII) has, since 2007, supported African countries to conduct national research, development and innovation surveys focusing on conventional internationally comparable indicators. National capacities have also been built in the use of STI indicators for policy formulation and review. The ASTII’s African Innovation Outlook Reports measure the progress made by African countries in research, development and innovation in terms of developing new products and services, marketing, and process innovations.

The STI statistics currently available to public sector funding bodies (especially science granting councils) is based on aggregated data on STI indicators suitable for international comparisons. These data are sporadic for many councils and do not capture detailed information about the objectives, activities (processes), outputs, outcomes and impacts of research, development and innovation programs and projects.

Phase 1 of SGCI (SGCI-1) focused on strengthening the ability of participating councils to use appropriate STI indicators in program management and policy work. In this regard, the councils were supported to modify their research, development and innovation survey instruments so they could collect micro-level datasets to use to effectively manage research, development and innovation activities and for making decisions about the allocation of resources to various activities. The councils from Botswana, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Senegal, Zambia, Uganda, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Côte d’Ivoire and Namibia were supported to modify their research, development and innovation survey instruments to be able to collect datasets covering different levels of research and development performance and management. Rwanda’s National Council for Science and Technology, for instance, conducted a survey based on modified instruments and published the survey report. Similarly, the council in Burkina Faso conducted a sub-sector innovation survey to determine the characteristics of the main economic sectors to focus their research and development investments, while the data from the Namibian council’s survey informed research priorities and strategic objectives in the revision of the National STI Policy and National Development Plan. The Zambian council’s survey report enabled the council to revise its funding guidelines to encourage the participation of female researchers. 

Box 3: Summary of achievements

1) Various tools were developed to guide the science granting council’s STI policy review processes and related stakeholder engagements. These include an STI policy review framework and methodology and a set of templates to map policy change pathways. Ten science granting councils are currently involved in this work (Namibia, Malawi, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Uganda, Ghana, Rwanda, Zambia and Kenya). The tools are currently in use by science granting councils from Namibia, Malawi, Kenya, Senegal and Burkina Faso. Namibia has used the tools to develop an implementation plan for its new STI policy. Kenya’s STI policy was completed in 2020 and is ready to be launched by the government.

2) A best practices document on how the science granting councils make funding decisions, set priorities and the indicators used to make these decisions is under development.

3) Updating monitoring, evaluation and learning frameworks and plans is ongoing in ten science granting councils (Burkina Faso, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Kenya).

4) Training and technical support to the science granting councils on digital data management systems is ongoing. Several tools have been developed, including a data management framework and a template/documents for data management processes (e.g. processes for data governance such as data collection, data storage, data quality assurance, data sharing, and data security).

The second phase of SGCI (SGCI-2) has deepened the work initiated under SGCI-1 by supporting the councils to i) develop/ strengthen monitoring, evaluation and learning  frameworks and to systematically collect, analyze and use data for policy and decision-making; ii) conduct reviews of national STI policies (in the context of national development plans) to improve their decision-making processes with regards to research, development and innovation  investments, deepen their knowledge of the policy process, and to enhance their roles as policy champions; and iii) develop data management systems and systematically collect, analyze and use relevant data/evidence. As well, peer-to-peer learning about the use of data and evidence in policy and decision-making is being supported among councils. Examples of achievements are presented in Box 3. 

Aside from the above-mentioned areas, several new technical support activities were added in 2021. These included i) supporting the development of a generic digital data management system (and its integration into online grants management systems); ii) supporting the councils from Kenya and Senegal to develop implementation plans for their national STI policies; and iii) conducting a situational/needs analysis of Nigeria’s Tertiary Education Trust Fund with respect to monitoring, evaluation and learning activities, STI policy implementation and data management systems.

The councils continued to express interest in using data and evidence to guide their policy and decision-making processes. They recognize the importance of developing and reviewing STI policies to ensure strong alignment between investments in research, development and innovation and national development plans and priorities. This is particularly relevant for councils whose remit covers STI policies. Some councils have more robust systems for determining their research priorities than others. In addition, the staff of some councils are more adept at national STI policy analysis than others, thereby creating opportunity for peer-to-peer sharing and learning. Of significance is the growing appreciation of councils as organizations positioned at the boundary of the scientific and policy communities. As such, this project will strengthen the capacity of councils to collect, analyze and use data in a way that facilitates their roles as boundary actors.

Support to develop robust monitoring, evaluation and leaning (MEL) and data management systems are also areas where capacity strengthening gaps exist and where the need for continued support has been expressed by the councils. Robust MEL systems provide useful information required by the councils to effectively assess the relevance and impacts of national STI policies and policy instruments. They also enable the councils to systematically collect and analyze data linked to the research projects that they fund, as well as those supported through other channels (for instance, funds that flow directly from the government or donor agencies to research organizations). 

MEL is an integral part of SGCI’s implementation. In this regard, the Initiative has developed a MEL system based on Outcome Diary Log sheet (ODLS) to document the changes linked to the Initiative’s activities by the collaborating technical agencies and councils. The ODLS manual is accessible here: ( Led by a consultant, ongoing activities include: implementation of the MEL system (which involves data collection/synthesis and reporting); monitoring progress towards meeting SGCI’s annual log frame targets; supporting MEL sessions held during regional meetings (in collaboration with the collaborating technical agencies, councils and Initiative management team); periodic review/updating of the MEL system and development of new tools as necessary; contributing to annual reports; and supporting SGCI’s external reviews.   

4. Project goal and objectives   

This project aims to further strengthen the capacity of science granting councils to use data and evidence in policy and decision-making and to enhance their roles as policy champions both nationally and regionally. The project will also provide monitoring, evaluation, and learning support to the SGCI.   

Specific objectives could include the following:   

For the councils:   

  1. Support the councils to develop and operationalize organizational-level MEL systems (including frameworks and plans). This work will build on ongoing work with ten councils (from Burkina Faso, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Kenya) and involves support to review/update MEL templates and methodologies and to develop implementation plans.   

  1. Support the councils to develop and operationalize STI policy implementation plans. This will build on ongoing work in which the councils from Namibia, Malawi, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Uganda, Ghana, Rwanda, Zambia and Kenya receive support to review their national STI policies in the context of national development plans.   

  1. Support the councils to operationalize digital data management frameworks and systems and systematically collect, analyze and use relevant data/evidence in policy and decision-making. This work will build on ongoing work under SGCI-2 in which data management frameworks, templates and generic data management systems have been developed. The councils from Botswana, Burkina Faso, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia are participating in this work.  

  1. Deepen support for peer-to-peer learning among councils. This work will build on ongoing work under SGCI-2 through which a knowledge exchange platform/helpdesk has been developed. Once fully operationalized, the platform will allow the councils to seek technical support virtually.   

For the SGCI:   

  1. In close collaboration with other collaborating technical agencies, the councils and the Initiative management team, support the implementation of the SGCI-level MEL system that includes data collection, analysis, and interpretation as well monitoring progress towards meeting the SGCI’s annual log frame targets.  

  1. Organize MEL sessions during regional meetings.  

  1. Support collection and packaging of the SGCI’s stories of change/impact (for sharing through the website and other platforms) in collaboration with collaborating technical agencies, councils, and the Initiative management team.   

  1. Contribute to annual reports and support SGCI’s external reviews.   

5.  Project approach   

An open call for proposals will be used to select a suitable organization (or a consortium of organizations) to implement this project. Training and technical support to the councils could involve customized in-country coaching (supported by local experts where this is feasible/desired by the councils), in-person training courses/workshops and the use of online platforms. This project should be implemented in very close collaboration with all other components of SGCI-2 in a collaborative manner, and particularly the projects on research management, strategic communications and knowledge uptake, and gender equality and inclusivity. It will also be important to ensure that the work on MEL and data management systems is aligned with the SGCI’s overall MEL process. The proposal should include a detailed description of how the project’s implementation approach will consider the unique circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic.   

The project’s principal investigator, based at the lead organization, will be responsible for the project’s technical/financial management, reporting and other contractual obligations.   

6. Timelines and budget  


Due dates   


July 22, 2022  

Release of call for project proposals  

August 26, 2022  

Deadline for receipt of proposals  

September 16, 2022  

The outcome of the selection process is communicated to all applicants   

ii) The budget available for this project is approximately CAD$1,350,000 (all inclusive) over approximately 34 months.   

A draft budget should be submitted using the IDRC template (Proposal Budget | IDRC - International Development Research Centre ). The budget should be in the organization’s working currency (Currency Converter | Foreign Exchange Rates | OANDA).  

7. Application procedure and submission deadline   

Proposals (25 pages or less, excluding annexes) should be submitted electronically to the SGCI secretariat ( by August 26, 2022 (17:00 East Africa Time). Proposals submitted after this deadline will not be accepted. All questions about this call should be sent to secretariat by July 29, 2022. The responses will be posted on the SGCI website. 

Proposals should be submitted in English in Word format. They should be concise and include the following elements at a minimum: 

  • Title, name, address and contacts of the project leader and name and address of the applicant organization   

  • Executive summary   

  • Project background and rationale   

  • Goal, specific objectives, key activities and links to other SGCI themes   

  • Project implementation approach   

  • Expected outputs and outcomes   

  • Project-level monitoring, evaluation and learning and governance  

  • Gender equality/inclusivity and ethical considerations   

  • Risks and potential mitigation measures (this information should be presented in a table listing the major potential risks associated with the project implementation, as well their probability/impact and potential management measures)  

  • Organizational profile(s) and key project personnel  

  • Short biodata of the project’s key project team members (as annex) 

8. Project team requirements 

The requirements for the project team members include:   

  • Expertise and practical experience (supported by relevant publications) in development/ review of STI and related policies, as well as policy engagement approaches within the context of sub-Saharan Africa.   

  • Knowledge of national STI systems in Africa, including the key actors (organizations), policies and the roles of science granting councils in brokering, facilitating, funding and coordinating interactions among the various actors.   

  • Expertise and practical experience in monitoring, evaluation and learning and data management systems and frameworks.   

  • Experience in working with public sector STI organizations in Africa (especially science granting councils) in the context of capacity strengthening.    

  • Ability to work in both English and French is a requirement and applications without both language capabilities will not be evaluated. Ability to work in Portuguese will be an added advantage. 

9. Evaluation criteria

The proposals will be reviewed by the SGCI Initiative management team and scored using a 50-point scale as follows:   

  • Expertise and practical experience of project team members in Africa’s STI systems, including the key actors (organizations) and STI policy-making processes, MEL and digital data management systems, other areas covered by the project, and working with science granting councils in sub-Saharan Africa (14 points).   

  • Originality, creativity and clarity of the proposal, demonstrating familiarity with SGCI’s work and a clear understanding of the project’s ambition and the roles of science granting councils in national science systems. A clear articulation of how the project builds on and reinforces SGCI’s current work on the use of data and evidence in policy and decision-making and links with related efforts by other agencies (12 points).   

  • Clarity and soundness of the project’s implementation approach, including appropriateness for sub-Saharan Africa councils, value for money principles, the conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic and alignment with the SGCI’s collaborative implementation approach (10 points).   

  • Clarity/justification of the budget and the extent of its alignment with the proposed project activities (6 points).    

  • Level of project team members’ presence in sub-Saharan Africa (8 points).  

10. About the funding partners   

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is a United Kingdom government department that pursues national interests and projects the UK as a force for good in the world. It promotes the interests of British citizens, safeguards the UK’s security, defend its values, reduces poverty and tackles global challenges with international partners. 

The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation is a directorate under the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Its main purpose is to work towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The Agency has five main priorities: Invest more strategically; Be a key partner in sustainable development; Contribute to a greener world; Be a champion of innovation within development cooperation; Strengthen and systematize the development, sharing and use of knowledge within the organization. 

The International Development Research Centre is a Canadian Crown corporation that supports the generation of knowledge and innovation for positive change. The Centre generates, identifies and tests scalable ideas and innovations; connects solutions with actors who can help achieve large-scale impact; and examines early wins in scaling up to identify and share critical success factors.  

The National Research Foundation is South Africa’s government mandated research and science development agency. The Foundation’s goal is to create innovative funding instruments, advance research career development, increase public science engagement and establish leading-edge research platforms that will transform the scientific landscape and inspire a representative research community to aspire to global competitiveness.  

The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency is a government agency of Sweden’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It strives to reduce world poverty by allocating resources and knowledge with the goal of making a difference for people in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. To achieve this, the agency collaborates with actors from civil society, universities and the public and private sector. 

The German Research Foundation is the self-governing organization for science and research in Germany. It serves all branches of science and the humanities. In organizational terms, it is an association under private law. Its membership consists of German research universities, non-university research institutions, scientific associations and the Academies of Science and the Humanities.