Increasing Global South Participation in Development Economics
Studies on the Participation of the Global South in Development Economics Research, Policy and Consulting Activities
When local researchers participate in economic development policy discussions—whether locally, regionally, or globally—they can bring a deeper understanding of the social, political, and economic context of their countries, compared to outside experts.
However, experts based in the Global North (particularly North America and Western Europe) have historically led many, if not most, global, regional, and even national development policy debates that focus on countries in the Global South (broadly, Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean). While there is increasing recognition of the importance of diversity and lived experience, it is not yet clear that this recognition has led to changes in the field of development research.
The findings of these studies inspired PEP’s Call to Action for greater participation of Southern Researchers in economic development debates, supported by more than 80 leading economists from around the world.
We invite you to support this initiative by adding your name and sharing it with your networks.
These findings were presented and discussed in a session on how to “Increase the Southern Voice in Development Debates” at the Evidence for Development: What Works Summit 2021 (right). The authors also shared their findings in two blog articles:
- Northern Institutions Dominate International Development Research: So What?, published as part of the Power Shifts series for From Poverty to Power (FP2P, Duncan Green, Oxfam Blogs)
Geographical inequality in global debates about development policy published by GlobalDev, a blog site supported by the Global Development Network (GDN)
PEP Research Fellows conducted four studies on the participation of the Global South in economic development research activities. Findings from these studies were recently published in Applied Economics Letters:
- Underrepresentation of developing country researchers in development research
Verónica Amarante, Ronelle Burger, Grieve Chelwa, John Cockburn, Ana Kassouf, Andrew McKay, and Julieta Zurbrigg
Published in Applied Economic Letters
The authors show how researchers from the Global North conduct the bulk of research on development and development policies in the South. This is true for journal publications, citations, and conference presentations.
Nearly three-quarters (73%) of the articles published in the top 20 development journals (1990-2019) were by Northern researchers. Not only are Southern researchers published less frequently, but per article, they are also cited less frequently. Similarly, only around 10% of presenters at the top five development conferences were affiliated with universities in developing countries.
Critically, the authors found no evidence of improvement in Southern representation over time.
This article draws from the findings of the following projects:
- Research on Development Issues from the Southern World
Veronica Amarante, Julieta Zurbrigg
Focus on journal publications/citations
PEP Working Paper 2020-24
- Obstacles that Southern Researchers Face in Publishing in Economics Journals, and Why the Research Community Should Care
Ana Lucia Kassouf, Lucas Ronconi
Focus on obstacles to research in the Global South
PEP Working Paper 2022-03
- Considering Regional Representation at Development Conferences
Focus on international conferences
PEP Working Paper forthcoming
- Southern-Authored Journal Publications: Analysis of Submissions to the Review of Development Economics
Andrew McKay (Managing Editor, Review of Development Economics)
PEP Working Paper forthcoming
The problem of underrepresentation of the Global South in development research is not limited to Southern researchers seeking to advance their academic careers. It hinders development policy efforts and perpetuates global inequalities.
Since local experts generally have a better understanding of their local (socioeconomic, legal, and cultural) context, when they participate in policy research, the recommendations are likely to improve the welfare of those targeted by the policy.
PEP Research Fellows investigating Southern participation in policy debates (below) found that local researchers do participate in local government-produced research. Yet, qualitative evidence indicates that they are often politically aligned with the party in power or other special-interest groups, potentially reducing the quality and integrity of their participation.
In the international arena, Southern researchers are marginalized. Less than 1% of authors of World Bank (1978-2020) and only 12% of authors of UNDP (1990-2020) flagship reports reside in a developing country.
This issue is further explored in:
- Assessing the Participation of Researchers from Lower-Middle-Income Countries in Economic-Development-Policy Debates
Lucas Ronconi, Nisha Arunatilake, Junette Perez, Christian Arnault Emini
PEP Working Paper 2021-25
and was the subject of PEP’s 2021 international policy conference: "Power in Proximity: For greater participation of local researchers in development policy debates".
As in the areas of development economics research, and policy debates, very little is currently known concerning Southern participation in economic development consulting business at the national, regional, and global levels.
PEP Research Fellows find that, while Southern researchers are frequently commissioned, the budgets for their work are limited.
Weak Southern participation in economic development consulting activities, which often inform and influence policy discussions and the implementation of development interventions, significantly limits knowledge integration and dissemination and impedes or negates these researchers’ contributions to economic development.
This subject is further explored in:
- Southern Researchers Marginalisation at the Global, Regional and National Economic Development Consulting Business
Ramos Mabugu, Margaret Chitiga, Vaqar Ahmed, Kehinde Omotosho
PEP Working Paper 2022-05