Oxford’s Department for International Development today hosted a symposium on”The Interface of Academic Research and Government Policy in Developing Countries.” It’s a really important topic. There is a lot of research being conducted on just about any topic, but the research isn’t always translated into policy.

Here are some points that were made, in no particular order:

  • A speaker on Sub-Saharan Africa: The main problem is that there is no critical mass of research and researchers. In other places there are many good researchers competing and cooperating, which drives excellent work.
  • Further, research in the region is often driven by Western researchers (western funding), and not what local governments see as important. No wonder there’s little interface.
  • Another speaker bemoaned the lack of specific case studies and other empirical work of that nature — lots of analytical and abstract work. Policy makers want to see examples of how things happened in real life, concretely. More case studies help.
  • Finally, a speaker mentioned that researchers should consider the ethical implications of their work. Policy prescriptions have an impact, and researchers –especially when they come into developing countries from abroad — should always be aware of this. “How accountable are we?”