North-South research partnership academia meets development?


The development research landscape is evolving fast. The analytical relevance of traditional dichotomies between 'developing' and 'industrialized', or between North and South, is waning. Our capacity to conduct relevant research on climate change, migration, global health and other global issues depends ever more on northern and southern institutions joining forces in equitable, effective research partnerships. Novel approaches are required to deal with asymmetric power relations and promote more balanced alliances. This working paper examines recent experiences in North-South research partnerships, identifying worst and best practices. It draws on work undertaken by the EADI Sub-Committee on Research Partnerships over the past two years including an online survey, face-to-face interviews and roundtable discussions. Our findings confirm that research partnerships are not immune to the typically unequal, biased donor-recipient relations that have plagued international development cooperation for decades. Despite improvements in recent years, entrenched behaviour and enduring practices still affect the quality and effectiveness of research partnerships. Power relations influence the ability to combine capacity-building aspirations with the drive for academic excellence. Mounting pressure to publish research outcomes fast in disciplinary journals edited in the North combined with harsh competition for funding seriously limit the time and scope available to establish equitable partnership frameworks and support institutional capacities. This calls for addressing funding, knowledge and power issues in development research partnerships that involve an ever greater diversity of actors and modalities.