Researching the politics of development



How to make your research go further

17 July 2014.
By Rowena Harding.
One of the key priorities for our research is not just carrying it out, but making sure it can be used by policy makers and other organisations that can influence the development agenda. So we continually ask colleagues across continents and sectors what can help make research go further.
Nick Manning, ESID’s Honorary Senior Research Fellow, is the former head of the Governance and Public Sector Management group at the World Bank and has significant experience on the receiving end of research.
We asked him for his advice on how researchers can make their research stand out in a crowded market place.
NM: “Above all, I think you have to make the empirical basis clear. Share the data. All organisations like the Bank are somewhat inward looking – if the findings are not the product of Bank research itself, then maybe they don’t count quite as much. Large complex entities are sceptical about the findings of others: Bank research papers or documents overwhelmingly cite other Bank research papers and documents. So presenting the original data and encouraging challenges and other interpretations is important.”
“A key point is to be clear that we’re not just presenting a conclusion, we’re presenting you with the empirics behind that, that you could review and challenge us, and that will be fine – if you can get a different conclusion from the same data, then that’s really interesting and let’s see where we go with that. So show your workings.”
Lant Pritchett, Professor at Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development, is one of the key members of ESID‘s growth project. He had this to say about how to get research noticed by the World Bank:
LP: “I feel like a lot of academic work tends to be strong on critique and criticism and weak on alternative concrete actions people can take. If you want places that do stuff to notice your work, you have got to give them stuff to do. You can’t succeed with critique. Almost nobody wants to take the advice: ‘just don’t do something, stand there’.”
“By and large most organisations are open to doing something better or doing something new, but it’s got to come with a concrete plan. An exclusively critical thought process that says ‘what you’re doing is wrong’, which doesn’t come with a concrete ‘here’s how to accomplish these objectives better with a series of actions you can take’, is not going to work.”
“The World Bank is full of people perfectly open to ideas. You have to give these organisations something to do. And if you come with something to do I think it’s very easy to get the attention of these organisations. If you come with something for organisations not to do, organisations can’t survive not doing things. And if you come with exclusively a critique, you can’t get that on the agenda because you haven’t got an alternative agenda.”
Finally, what is the policy maker’s perspective on how to get your research used?
Margaret Kakande is the chair of ESID’s Advisory Group and Head of the Budget Monitoring and Accountability Unit at the Ministry of Finance for the Government of Uganda. She had this advice to give: