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WANTED!Real data for good decisions

Published:Sunday | January 18, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Jamaica floundering for lack of critical supporting research

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

The absence of readily available research data is being blamed for some of the poor decisions being made by business operators and state entities locally.

The inadequate research and failure of researchers to highlight their findings are also seriously impacting the growth of the micro, small and medium-size enterprises sector.

According to Professor Denzil Williams, executive director of the Mona School of Business and Management, a lack of appreciation of research findings is also not helping.

"The challenge we face is that a lot of people do not appreciate the process that you go through for academic research," Williams told a Gleaner Editors' Forum last week.

He argued that too frequently, researchers are rebuffed by the very people in need of solutions to their problems.

"We turn up at their door and say 'I want you to complete a survey' and they tell you it is not valuable but expect that you are going to give them an answer to the problem that they have," charged Douglas.

cultural roadblock

Head of the Department of Management Studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Noel Cowell, supported Williams as he argued that the failure to properly use research is atop a list of debilitating maladies handicapping Jamaica's economy.

Cowell warned that breaking the back of that cultural roadblock will not happen immediately. "It is true that business research has not been conducted enough and the solution is not going to come overnight."

Cowell said that there is considerable anecdotal evidence to suggest that entrepreneurs tend to do things on the basis of decisions which are not informed by any research or fact.

"Increasingly, when one talks to people who are in business those are some of the concerns that they expressed," said Cowell.

He noted that in all kinds of businesses, massive amounts of data are being thrown up or emerge naturally as part of their interactions. "Very often, businesses don't know how to utilise that kind of data," said Cowell.

According to Cowell, his department at the university is in the process of engaging research, focusing on the inability of professionals to utilise data that are available to their specific circumstances.

"There is a basis and if you talk to people in business and in policy they would put the same argument forward that there is a need for additional research to inform some of the decisions that are being made," said Cowell.

He said small business operators are not in possession of the necessary resources to enable them to access the kinds of data that they need to make prudent decisions.

However, Cowell argued that resources exist in the society that could be harnessed to enable the kinds of research to take place.

"We can talk about how to enable persons to use data and to inject sensitivity in the business community of the need for data before making decisions," said Cowell.

He suggested that universities and business schools can play a major role in that. "We think that we don't talk to each other enough," he said.

Valrie Veira of the Jamaica Business Development Centre agreed.

"Over the years, we have moved too much away from making decisions based on real data. I want to agree that we need to be more engaged in terms of relevant research," said Veira.

"I think that government technocrats like myself, who manage a process have a responsibility to provide information and options," she said. "We as technocrats need to get involved in getting data to present them to politicians."