Rethinking impact, collaboration and capacity in ODA-funded research

In light of the UK’s significant investment of Official Development Assistance (ODA) into Higher Education through the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and recent accusations of tied aid, for example in the review of the Newton Fund by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) there is an urgent need to rethink research funded through ODA and to explore the implications for how we approach research impact (ensuring research leads to changes in policy, practice leading to broader societal and/or economic benefits), collaboration (ensuring that research crosses disciplinary, sectoral and national divides to respond to ‘real world problems’ in specific contexts) and capacity (ensuring that a diverse range of individual and institutional stakeholders have the relevant knowledge, skills, materials and infrastructures to support collaborative ODA research practice – and that broader systems are in place to facilitate this). This poses significant challenges to traditional approaches to research as well as traditional understandings of research impact, ethics, quality and governance.

To explore these issues, a panel session at the Development Studies Association (DSA) conference at the Open University, UK 19th-21st June 2019  will bring together contributors from organisations including UKRI, LIDC, UKCDR, ICAI, GDN, Christian Aid and the Universities of Oxford, Queen Mary and SOAS convened by the Open University and INASP to explore the following questions:

  1. Rethinking research impact
  • What does ODA funding mean for the way that ‘research impact’ is understood, captured and attributed?
  • Are current research funding tools (such as Pathways to Impact and ResearchFish) fit for purpose?
  • How can current reward/incentive structures in Higher Education institutions encompass broader approaches to research impact?
  • How can the HE sector learn from sophisticated approaches to MEL in the INGO sector?
  1. Rethinking research collaboration
  • Must all research funded by ODA be collaborative?
  • What types of actors should be involved to ensure ODA compliance and in what ways?
  • How can research collaborations negotiate distance and communicate across difference (e.g. different languages, jargons, ways of working, resources)?
  • How can research funding and governance be more collaborative (e.g. transnational research governance and involving more diverse actors in agenda-setting/peer review)?
  1. Rethinking research capacity strengthening
  • What are the key capacity challenges for designing, implementing and communicating ODA-funded research and how do these interact with challenges around research governance (e.g. agenda-setting and evaluation) and research uptake, adaptation and use?
  • How can existing capacity be recognised and new capacity developed at the level of individual researcher, organisation and system?
  • Who is responsible for capacity development?
  1. General questions about ODA-funded research
  • How can research move from ODA-compliance to ODA-excellence?
  • What is the future of ODA-funded research in the UK?
  • What future research is needed to better understand the challenges of ODA-funded research?

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