Fair Formula for Resource Sharing: Why Science and Communication Matter

Published on 4th August 2020

David Matthers, Reporter of Times Higher Education, has noted that to a greater extent than has happened in Britain, France or the USA, Germany “has enlisted the advice of philosophers, historians of science, theologians, and jurists as it navigates the delicate ethical balancing act of reopening society while safeguarding the health of the public” following the COVID-19 pandemic.

How is the composition of national COVID-19 taskforces modelled to address the multifaceted challenges of the disease, which transcend disciplinary borders and are not confined to science alone?

Can the example of Germany be emulated, a country heavy on science and engineering but giving a heavy vote to humanities when forming COVID-19 taskforces because of the potent role of attitudinal aspects in containing the pandemic? Behavioural and cultural issues, for example, form a more potent factor in containing COVID-19 transmission at community scales than the nuances of weather patterns and other known unknowns on the nature of the novel coronavirus. System scientists and modellers are also critical to addressing the policy and planning challenges of the pandemic.

Do we have at national and sub-national levels reliable projections of the differentiated COVID-19 management needs for home-based care, serious cases, and critical cases (ICU)? Such questions can be answered effectively from a united interdisciplinary front which integrates all the disparate stakeholder efforts and outputs.

The voice of reason

In Kenya, disagreements over what should make for a suitable revenue-sharing formula on the one hand, and the disparate efforts of modelling COVID-19 scenarios and behaviour-change agency on the other, are evidence of the underutilised opportunities for engaging a united, well-informed and knowledge-driven approach involving academics and researchers. It has been argued that the voice of reason from African think tanks and academics has been rather subdued, if not disintegrated, in the key political processes directing policy and planning in the face of urgent issues on sharing resources and managing disasters and crises, the current pandemic being exemplary.

The COVID-19 watershed moments have proven an age-old truism: Science pursues concrete ideals, but politics is about competing ideas and ideologies. Political goodwill and strategic networking must, therefore, work hand in hand with scholarly championship to form a robust triangle that can foster sustainable societal progress.

FSCI 2020 scholarly communication forum to showcase a Kenyan co-owned project-level formula for fair compensation

FORCE11 — The Future of Research Communications and e-Scholarship, can finally expect an eventful virtual forum this year thanks to COVID-19. The FORCE11 Scholarly Communication Institute (FSCI) will this year hold a virtual event over the period August 3–13, 2020, known as FSCI 2020. The focus this year is of key interest to Kenya and Africa: FAIR Data principles. The theme includes courses and plenaries in innovative publishing practices, policy implementation, and other aspects of scholarly communication. For Africa, this is a key topic that should excite all present and upcoming scholars on the continent. Education is among the worst-hit sectors in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, challenging African scholars to engage a proactive and forward-looking approach.

Drawing on this motivation and my passion for quality education and scholarly communication, FSCI assigned me a slot on August 3, 2020, to present a “Lightning Talk” showing how scientifically driven dialogue has delivered on a co-owned formula, which has since 2017 been key to ensuring happy teamwork and quality fieldwork with youth in Kenya. The formula promises policy influence in favour of win-win work contracts. This came hot on the heels of a revenue-sharing fiasco in Kenya, which was marred with political disagreements in the Senate. The cause of disagreement was that the newly proposed parameters in the revenue-sharing formula were skewed against some counties, leading to reduced allocations for them under the new arrangement.

Socialising science for equitable sharing of resources

Science communication is different from scientific communication. The former is an art that socialises and demystifies the jargon and elitism of the latter. Your win-win engagement formula for happy and productive teams is just a dose of science communication away, socialised and innovatively applied to demystify the legalese of traditional work contracts. Science communication has been applied to ensure a reciprocal engagement that motivates the workforce while ensuring quality work and a fair compensation of the field personnel. This model has been used to engage with Kenyan youth on various field assignments over the years. The mathematical formula was arrived at in 2017 out of a negotiated process between the developer and young Kenyan graduates, who were his mentees.

The formula has found many applications in Kenya and has been cited in a 2020 PhD thesis on Geodesign and Sustainable Development Goals at Antioch University, USA (cited by Etta Jackson with credit to Nashon Adero, the Founder of Impact Borderless Digital - IBD). This formula is communicated and shared in advance as part of the work contract. It is then used to weight and score individual performance on four variables:  quality of work, N (40%), productivity as measured by the rate of discharging outputs, a key factor in business, P (35%), demonstrated leadership roles, S (5%), and cooperation and discipline, D (20%). It was further agreed that the formula be applied in a partial variation mode, where 50% of the pay becomes an automatic right to all the participating workers and only the balance of 50% becomes differentially shareable based on the weighted performance above. The premise is that the contracting party holds shared responsibility in securing competent workers who can be entrusted with delivery on each assignment, hence the 50% direct and non-negotiable entitlement to each worker.

Details of the sharing formula

As shown in the figure below, the formula prescribes the final individual-specific pay as Ti a function of the specific score (W) for each worker, i, given a total agreed contract sum, Ci. As motivation and a mark of fairness, any W score of at least 70% attracts a full pay of the outstanding balance and a recommendation letter. Scores below 70% attract a 10% penalty for every closed interval of five points (e.g. 65-69).

Reflections on the sharing formula

The following parallels to equitable sharing of revenue from national governments can be drawn based on this project-level formula.

  1. A win-win settlement is easier to achieve among the parties to a contract by first ensuring that there is a sizeable equal-right constant as part of the sharing formula, enough to pacify disparities while appreciating the contribution of each member to the team – the nuances of quality aside. The project-level formula above has ensured this by sparing 50% as a constant entitlement to all the workers as a basic need, leaving the employer with control of the other 50% to subject to performance evaluation. A sense of equality in the co-ownership of the quality of outcomes is secured thereby.
  2. Personal and professional qualities, just like the variables of effort and capacity across Kenyan counties, are worth subjecting to performance evaluation to determine competitive shares, but only in the remaining 50%. A balance of justice, both allocative and distributive, can be secured thereby.
  3. From these perspectives, dedicating a sizeable weight (e.g. 50%) to the constant part of the proposed revenue-sharing equation could well be a strategic point of entry to help expedite a negotiated consensus on county revenue allocation in Kenya. The remaining share of the total amount should then be subjected to evaluation, by scoring each county on factors similar to the list of a – c below. As it is, the proposed “Third Basis Formula”

Kenya has the following assigned weights to be considered:

  1. Service delivery (70%) – health (17%); agriculture (10%); other county services (18%); urban services (5%); health (17%); basic share (20%);
  2. Balanced development (26%) – land area (8%); roads (4%); poverty (14%); and
  3. Fiscal effort and prudence (4%) – fiscal effort (2%); fiscal prudence (2%).

By Nashon Adero

The author is Lecturer in the School of Mines & Engineering at Taita Taveta University in Kenya

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