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Community Contribution

Mapping Evidence to Enhance the Impacts of Development Research

Nov 11, 2022
Dr. Ticora V. Jones

Research transforms lives. It helps us understand complex problems and create solutions across cultures, regions, and sectors. USAID is committed to evidence-based decision making through its investments in research and development activities—which is why our USAID Innovation, Technology, and Research (ITR) Hub partnered with the University of Notre Dame’s Pulte Institute for Global Development in 2021 through the Research Technical Assistance Center (RTAC) project to develop the Research for Development Evidence Gap Map (EGM).

By gathering evidence about research-for-development partnerships and approaches , the Research for Development EGM provides insights that can strengthen the capacity and effectiveness of stakeholders and activities and inform future efforts to generate and use evidence for effective development programming. 

To build the EGM, over 400 documents were reviewed—including impact evaluation reports, peer-reviewed publications, performance evaluation reports, conference proceedings, bilateral donor documents, case studies—and categorized the evidence across seven intervention categories and three key outcomes.

While all findings can be found in the Research for Development EGM, we also jointly produced three briefers to summarize key findings and provide recommendations that are highly relevant to research-for-development approaches: 

  1. Research Financing 

Cost-effectiveness and results of research financing may differ depending on who receives and manages the funds. In addition to direct funding to support research activities, resources are needed for capacity building and to establish the necessary supporting infrastructure for researchers in low- and middle-income countries. The literature also shows that not all research findings meant for development audiences are being applied in development programming. 

  1. Capacity Building for Research Translation

Many researchers continue to find it challenging to translate technical research findings into formats that speak directly to the contexts and needs of policymakers and practitioners. Given that research translation is a relatively new expectation for many researchers, capacity strengthening is a key part of development research partnerships. 

  1. Effective Partnership Approaches

Research partnerships are too often driven by Global North priorities and do not address key needs of Global South institutions, including investments in infrastructure and support systems in addition to knowledge transfer and capacity exchange. Global development research is more relevant and impactful when all stakeholders are engaged as true partners from the beginning. 

We identified common themes across findings, which include the need for localization across each step of the research process, and diversification of the research base—particularly in building gender equity among researchers and supporting young and emerging researchers, which are necessary for sustainability and the evolution of partnerships. 

For more information on how to build and use EGMs or on the Research for Development EGM and related summary briefers, please contact us at [email protected].

About the authors
Ticora V. Jones, Ph.D.

Ticora V. Jones, Ph.D., is the Agency Chief Scientist and Managing Director for Research in the ITR Hub of the U.S. Agency for International Development. She manages research and development programs for the Agency that builds bridges between development professionals and universities through a multidisciplinary lens on science, technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship.