Call to Action
It is important to acknowledge that researchers originating from and living in the country or region of analysis can enhance rigorous, context-relevant empirical policy research, while providing local policy makers and stakeholders with a sustainable and rapid source of expertise on emerging issues.
We are a group of Partnership for Economic Policy (PEP) Research Fellows who, based on findings from our recent studies, believe that the following action list could contribute to increasing the participation, in a gender-balanced manner, of Southern researchers in economic development research debates.
1. The development economics research agenda should be driven by the development and policy issues that matter most for people living in these countries.
- Researchers and stakeholders living and working in developing countries should play a more important role in defining economic development research agendas.
- The in-country presence of staff of research funders and global development research centres should be increased.
Methods should be selected as a function of the issue to be studied rather than the reverse.
- Collaboration with researchers from other disciplines can help us address complicated development challenges.
2. Research should focus more on "invisible" countries.
- Many of the poorest countries are disproportionately under-researched. This is in part due to the lack of high-quality data sets in these countries.
- Where under-researched countries are safe, we need to earmark funding to collect data in these countries. And in areas that are unsafe, we need to think innovatively about research methods and data collection using new technologies.
3. Development journals need to recognise the value and contribution of local expertise and socio-cultural context.
- They should seek to increase the participation of authors and referees from the South (reference).
- Furthermore, Southern researchers should be better represented on the editorial boards of development journals (reference).
4. With the move to open access and the associated increase in submission fees, we need to find ways to prioritise and safeguard access to development journal submissions for Southern researchers.
- Development journals should continue to not request submission fees for developing country researchers and significantly reduce subscription fees for researchers and research institutions who reside in low-income countries.
- Submission and subscription fees for journals can be prohibitive, thereby restricting the access of developing country researchers to publish their results and participate in the academic dialogue and this is expected to become more of an issue with the global move to open access.
5. Increase South-North research partnerships.
- To address real-world development challenges, we need more bridges and partnerships that leverage the best of both worlds, combining Southern researchers' in-depth understanding of the local context with the critical distance that Northern researchers bring to development problems.
- We need open opportunities with clear rules, and with sensitivity towards any implied hierarchy such as arrangements regarding ownership of data, intellectual leadership and management of research budgets. We need pathways that will lead to longer-term and more in-depth North-South collaborations such as co-appointments, visiting professorships and fellowships. Northern research institutions should actively seek to expand their professional networks to better integrate Southern researchers.
- As economists, we know the dangers of power asymmetries and we know the virtues of greater transparency, open dialogue, plurality and diversity for the economy of ideas. Northern economic development researchers should seek to read and cite work produced by researchers who live and work in the countries they study.
6. Development conference and webinar organisers should better include researchers based in these countries, who can better represent those who stand to benefit from improved policies.
- They should think carefully about the location and accessibility of conferences and better exploit the use of virtual tools to increase participation of Southern researchers.
7. Increase funding for development research led by local researchers.
- This can include funding for training, mentoring and scientific workshops, but also for research fellowships that can help to foster and protect the research time of young talented scholars residing in developing countries.