GDNet Program Closure

Dear GDNet Members,

I am writing with important information about the closure of the GDNet program this week, (GDN’s knowledge service), and details of online resources which you may find useful.

Funding for the GDNet Program ends shortly and the GDNet website and online services are no longer accessible. GDN will be contacting GDNet members in due course to re-register for a new database of researcher profiles. We hope the following links will be of value to you in your research:

GDNet publications: GDNet’s toolkits, research communications handouts, learning publications and project documents (e.g. How To Guides on Policy Influence) are available from DFID’s Research For Development portal.

GDNet’s reflections on the achievements, outcomes and learning of the GDNet programme, 2010 to 2014, are captured in the GDNet Legacy Document.
GDNet’s June 2014 series of short ‘Lessons Learned’ publications comprise:

Free e-journals: INASP and the British Library for Development Studies (BLDS) provide access to several collections of free online journals including collections from Africa, Latin America and South Asia.

How to communicate research: INASP’s AuthorAid portal is a global network that offers support, mentoring, resources and training for researchers in developing countries.

Accessing development research:

Working papers and policy briefs from GDN-funded research are available from the GDN site.

The BLDS Digital Library is a free repository of digitised research papers from African and Asian research institutes.

Eldis is an online information service providing free access to relevant, up-to-date and diverse research on international development issues.

Finally, on behalf of my team, I would like to thank you for your membership of GDNet and to wish you every success in your future work. Many of you took part in our latest Members survey and we are disseminating the results widely. The analysis of the survey is included in our latest Monitoring & Evaluation report (see p.54 and p.84).

Best wishes

Sherine Ghoneim, GDNet Programme Director on behalf of the GDNet Team

Building the capacity to produce policy relevant research

As development and the global economy evolve in the direction of knowledge, the ability to communicate research effectively is essential; one of the means to ensure that, is the connections between researchers and policy makers from one side and between researchers themselves from the other side. Policy makers turn primarily to international organizations to obtain credible information, even though, local organizations and southern researchers may have the capacity but are often not able to engage in cooperation with policy makers. GDNet gathers the views of members of the development community who either have first-hand experience of overcoming the barriers faced by southern researchers or that working towards promoting southern knowledge.

Professor William LyakurwaAERC former Executive Director, stresses on the urgent need of conducting the researchers’ work to policy makers since they are considered as the end users. Further, researchers should get engaged into policy making to better understand the output of the research papers to apply it effectively in the policy content.

Watch Professor Lyakurwa’s interview and learn more about the work GDNet is doing to support Southern researchers and help their research travel further to reach policymakers; through capacity building programs.

A leap for generations!?

When senior researchers and younger ones work together they complement each other; since the latter have the enthusiasm, energy and the skills, whereas the senior researchers have greater experience which they can share with the young. Young researchers do not have the eye that can catch on the most important issues that society faces.

According to Wafik Grais (Viveris Mashrek), there is a need to foster these connections between both generations to make use of the strong points of each. In addition, combining between the skills, enthusiasm and expertise will deliver the best outcomes, and he stressed that this connection can be promoted by GDNet.

Shattered global wisdom

Today is UN Day for South-South Cooperation

Did you know that as of 22 December 2011, the General Assembly decided to declare 12 September- instead of December 19th– the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation?  The General Assembly decision 66/550 endorsed the Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Promoting and Implementing Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries . (United Nations website)

Time 4 Learning-K Samsonu New

We take so much for granted . .

I am very happy to seize this opportunity to raise awareness and provoke curiosity of international community about the value of ‘Connecting the South’. South-South collaboration is a very important ingredient  to international development. Southern research provides a resourceful pool of research that is considered a viable source of innovative ideas to current global challenges and uneven lumpiness in development.

In days where we see a deadly food crisis where hunger and drought spread across Africa; a daily human Massacre in Syria for the past two and half years where reactions to both parties cannot be more polarized (almost 110,000 people were killed mainly civilians including women and children and over 2,000,000 Syrian displaced- Business Insider); and instances where governments are willing to invest monies to go into war against other countries. How can this reality become a sustainable path to equal development opportunities for all?

Read more of this post

Are “South-South” interactions geographically restricted?

Southern researchers experience particular barriers to having their knowledge influence global debates on development. Publishing in international journal, in addition to putting together and sharing research ideas is often harder for them. Southern research institutes are less likely to have the communications capacity and budgets of their equivalents in the North so their voices can get lost online and at international events. GDNet’s own survey data also points to the dominance of northern academic practices making it harder for southern research to be seen on an equal footing.

In this video, Nader Kabbani (Silatech, Qatar) sheds light on some of the challenges facing researchers in the Middle East and the South in general. He argues that research clubs located in the South do not interact with each other, but with northern organizations instead.

Besides, the “South-South” interactions are much more elusive, in which people attending conferences in English or Arabic do not interact due to geographical restrictions, so there is a need to address different audience.

Learn more about the GDNet Connect South Campaign and watch this video

Interested to join us? Sign up to the Connect South Charter of Commitment and pledge how you will help southern research have a greater impact on LinkedIn

A Thinking Net…

Are we able to map the connection between research and policy in the South?

A new initiative launched ‘Politics & Ideas: a think net’ is a joint effort of researchers and practitioners to produce and share innovative knowledge linking ideas and politics in developing and emerging economies. The initiative aims to think critically about the relations between ideas, research, and politics to support a more constructive use of research based evidence in policy making.

It is a Southern led space that aims to encourage researchers and practitioners to speak about their own challenges and share their perspectives about policy making as they encounter them at the local, national and regional levels. Visit this link to learn about the team behind Politics & Ideas: a think net. Initially this is a small team but hopefully will grow with new members, collaborators and associates. This initiative is inspired and nuanced by Enrique Mendizabal , Vanesa Weyrauch, Sherine Ghoneim and myself . :)

Read more of this post

Inequality of Access to Information: Can Information Sharing be universalized?

Access to information has long been established as one of the major problems faced by southern researchers. Enhancing information accessibility and use helps to better understand, analyze and research ongoing development challenges so that practical solutions can originate from those directly affected by them. This cause is supported by the Connect South Campaign that has pledged to promote sharing knowledge and fostering connections between researchers and decision-makers in the global south, supported by GDNet, GDN’s Knowledge services.

Building on the World Bank’s “Mobilizing Knowledge Networks for Development” conference, Alex Bielak, Senior Fellow and Knowledge Broker (UNU-INWEH) and Louise Shaxon, Research Fellow (ODI), tackle the issue of access to information & the equality of access to information from the perspective of internet access. However Bielak argues the importance of communications infrastructure and how everyone should be connected through information sharing backbone networks that facilitates high-definition data transfer. He raises two interesting questions regarding the current global potential of information access, especially in the south; as to who can afford it, and the sufficiency and quality of this access to knowledge. He emphasizes on accessibility granting and whether it is in fact universal.

Read more of this post

Arab Spatial Development and Food Security Atlas

(This is a cross-post based on a blog post published Marcia MacNeil, Communications Specialist at IFPRI)

The main objective of Arab Spatial is to improve access to quality data and to support decision and policy making for a food-secure Arab world, covering the 22 member countries of the Arab League of Nations from Mauritania and Morocco in the West to Iraq and Oman in the East.

The Arab Spatial is an online information storehouse that aggregates food security and development information on more than 100 indicators from the regArab Spatial Atlasion’s governments as well as international institutions. The tool displays the data on maps that users can zoom in on the regional, national, sub-national, and even the pixel level.  Users can then build and print their own maps overlaid with information of their choosing. Data-sets available cover some of the following indices but not restricted to:

  • macroeconomics and governance
  • trade
  • agriculture, water, and energy
  • poverty, health, nutrition, and access to services
  • population and income

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) is also making some of the data behind the maps available as Linked Open Data (LOD), which means that institutions can capture the information and create new knowledge products with it. The Arab Spatial Development and Food Security Atlas is a “start-up” initiative of IFPRI that is supported by the International Fund of Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Policies, Markets, and Institutions (PIM) Program of the Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research Centers (CGIAR).

Watch Tutorial in English and Arabic to browse through Arab Spatial.

The challenges facing southern researchers in the Arab world

Development experiences from many Arab countries show that the achievement of development in different sectors depends on the practical level of knowledge and skills of the labor force available to those countries.  That’s why it is crucial to encourage southern research that can help the developing countries cope with the developed world, since it is the cornerstone in development where work force is trained to lead the social, economic, political and cultural changes.

Southern researchers experience numerous barriers to have their knowledge influence global debates on development. Thus, GDNet is focusing on solutions and ideas that help the development community to Connect South; it calls on development actors to pledge their support and re-establish their own commitments to southern researchers. Accordingly, the GDNet’s Connect South Campaign aims to advocate the value of southern research as well as promoting southern voices.

In this interview, Jamal Haidar (University of Paris I, Pantheon-Sorbonne, Paris) draws our attention to the three main challenges he has been experiencing as other southern researchers. First, it is extremely hard to access data from southern countries especially Arab countries. Second, there is a lack of funding in the Arab world to PHD students as well as young researchers to attend international conferences. Last but not least, he expresses his concern towards the issue that most southern researchers focus on the quantity rather quality of the research. Thus, he suggests that there should be some supervision on the quality of southern research in order to have more sound policy implications.

Related posts: Why do researchers struggle to communicate their research for evidence-based policymaking?


Cultural barriers to collaboration in Latin America

By Luis Ordonez

If we want to go beyond cooperation and start real collaboration among partners, we must be aware of the cultural aspects involved. While businesses recognized this a long time ago, the collaboration movement has only recently begun to catch up, learning some painful lessons along the way .

Some of the critical areas that hamper effective collaboration concern information handling, which is different in authoritarian and equalitarian societies; or the uses given to a certain technology (ITCs for example) in a verbal society, rather than an instrumental (written) one. When considering biases and perspectives, these cultural differences may help explain the success or failure of projects, even to the level of inhibiting collaboration among researchers.

Connect south Campaign

Connect South Campaign

Furthermore, in an increasingly technological and web-driven world, many matters regarding technology transfer and cultural in-breeding among the people involved must also become issues for analysis if we want to interact successfully. A culture for collaboration has to be developed through education and other socializing institutions for example, ‘family’, ‘neighborhood’ and so on.  But in order for those ‘new’ behaviors to be accepted as successful, they must show advantages when using them, as compared to results obtained through other channels in solving specific problem is specific settings.

How much we know about interactions among scientists in academic institutions, or between them and their institutional settings in the South as opposed to the North, and how these interactions are affected in authoritarian societies, like the Latin-American, may have a profound effect on our approach to knowledge management, and explain why, even when all parties involved are willing to achieve success, failure arrives i.e. from the lack of  understanding by part of the group of the need to comply with figures of authority by  the other participants, raised in an authoritarian milieu, when approaching ITCs as information “optimizers”. This also applies to the interactions between scientist and decision makers, who have to re-learn to socialize among participants when the team members come from different cultural environments.

In my opinion, and within the context of the Connect South campaign, these cultural barriers should be among the first issues to be raised, since they affects matters as simple as “who translates what”, or as complex as the way to present information to decision-makers that must “save face” in front of their constituencies, and therefore hampering success. An event on Cultural Barriers to Collaboration, preceded by team work on cultural characteristics of the research community, the decision making community and the “think-tanks” or similar “knowledge broker” organizations existent in the North-South extremes could be of great interest, if we are to advance to a better collaborative environment in order to mobilize knowledge from the academic community to the political world.

Luis Ordonez is President of  Fundación InterConectados in Venezuela.  Watch him discussing these issues in more detail (in Spanish).

GDNet to investigate southern research uptake: Perceptions, challenges and experiences

By Cheryl Brown

Connect South

Connect South

Every year, the GDNet Members survey gives thousands of southern researchers the opportunity to comment on GDNet’s services, and to share their experiences of the research process: from gaining funding, to accessing journals, to getting their research used. In the last two surveys, close to 1000 southern researchers gave their views on the challenges they face, the perceptions of southern research and the success they have had in getting their research used by development decision-makers.

This survey data has already been used to inform GDNet’s monitoring and evaluation framework, and inspire improvements to the services it offers, such as the new Thematic Windows. The findings also provided the foundation of the Connect South campaign, which GDNet launched earlier this year. Connect South aims to draw attention to the value of research knowledge from the South, the barriers facing southern researchers and encourage others to pledge their commitment to creating a more enabling environment for southern researchers.

The survey data is now being analysed and combined with a review of qualitative data, and peer-reviewed and grey literature to help GDNet create a clearer picture of the experience of southern researchers and the use of southern research and help us to generate new ways to take the aims of the Connect South campaign forward. The study is being led by Cheryl Brown, who advises GDNet on User Engagement and Outreach, with support from the GDNet Team.

We hope to find answers to a number of questions, including:

  • What are the most significant challenges facing southern researchers today?
  • Does the type of organisation in which a southern researcher is hosted affect which sources of research they use?
  • Which channels do southern researchers use for communicating their research?
  • What are the perceptions around the quality of southern research? And is the North/South distinction still being made?
  • To what extent is southern vs. northern research used by southern researchers?
  • Where is southern research having an impact on policy-makers and how does this happen?

GDNet’s Program Director, Dr. Sherine Ghoneim, sees the study as playing a key role in the Connect South campaign: “GDNet has been raising the global profile of southern knowledge since 2001 but the need for research findings from southern countries to be heard by decision-makers worldwide has never been greater. I’m confident this study will help GDNet, and others who share our commitment to supporting southern researchers, to identify new ways to help southern research have a bigger global impact.”

This is the first of a series of blog posts to be written during this study. We look forward to sharing with you our findings, conclusions and reflections along the way and hope you will let us know your views and insights in response.