[Editor’s note: This post was written by David O’Brien, Senior Program Specialist for the Technology and Innovation program at the International Development Research Center (IDRC), and introduces the call for papers for the upcoming conference: ‘The Transformation of Research in the South: policies and outcomes’.]
When government revenues are tight, investing public funds where there is a known return or vocal constituency is easier to justify than investing in the unknown. Almost by definition, investing in research is an unknown. A science minister or the head of a research funding agency would find it very difficult to argue the merits of supporting an academic research program when there are public demands for better housing, cleaner water, more affordable food and so on.
But research has a role to play in these and other sectors, and investing in the unknown can have very real impact on peoples’ lives (think ethanol research in Brazil as an alternative to fossil fuel). And in the long run, countries prosper when they invest in knowledge, build the skills and conditions to understand and adapt discoveries and technologies invented elsewhere (think reverse engineering as a stimulus to Asia’s rise as the global electronics manufacturer).
How countries support public scientific research has a direct bearing on the capability of researchers to generate scientific knowledge, and of organizations to adapt or apply such knowledge. While many countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America are characterized by weak scientific capacity, there are signs of change in how governments support research and promote science.
In this dynamic context, some evident signs of change include the emergence of new or restructured organizations to steer public research or promote innovation; new programmatic directions within such organizations; increased funding dedicated to research in academic settings; and, new domestic and international partnerships seeking to expand participation in and application of research. A multiplicity of organizations and funding sources have appeared, creating a complex web where resources circulate with knowledge in ways that are reshaping research systems in the South.
The International Development Research Center (IDRC) has a long standing interest in seeing low and middle income countries develop strong domestic systems that support science, technology and innovation. Building on conversations with sister agencies in Latin America, Asia and Africa, we are co-hosting a conference on the transformation of research. This Call for Papers seeks to better understand the institutional, political and economic conditions driving these changes; their consequences in terms of building scientific capacity and the broader application of results from scientific research; and, the lessons for public policy.
Potential topics include:
1) Developing research policy frameworks
2) Strengthening academic research
3) Expanding public and private participation in research
4) Frameworks/tools for assessing research performance and impact
5) Transnational cooperation in research
These topics speak directly to:
- the opportunity to focus attention on the important changes of policies that support research and the transformation of the knowledge production regimes in the South
- the need to understand how research has and can contribute to development strategies, and the role of research partnerships in the generation and application of research.
- areas of interest emerging from a series of consultations organized by IDRC to better understand new developments in how public agencies promote and encourage the application of research.
If you are interested in submitting an abstract for consideration, please send your application to the conference organizers before June 23, 2015. Call for Papers.