Development research is a broad concept, it means research that is relevant, development-oriented, aimed at providing answers to development problems. Such research can be conducted in the North as well as in the South.
The English have in Brighton the IDS (Institute of Development Studies).
A term commonly used in the Flemish community is “ontwikkelingsrelevant onderzoek” (research relevant to development). The Belgian Cooperation Prize used a more elaborate, yet more focused concept: “research that contributes strongly to knowledge that could benefit to development in the South”.
The French IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement) and its program AIRE-Sud for supporting research teams in Africa and Indian Ocean widely used the term "recherche au service du développement”. This last definition contains an ethical requirement stronger than the term "recherche pour le développement". The difference becomes even more noticeable when one speaks of "un chercheur au service du développement" : somebody committed to find effective answers, even if such answers can be effective only on the long term, or if they propose only partial solutions.
Muhashy, in the 2009 "Meeting on Evaluation of Development Research” writes about “research that accelerates development”.
Such definitions overlap each other to a large extent. Each stakeholder (either researcher, or evaluator, or sponsor) should be free to adopt the definition that best fits his/her needs at the time he/she uses it, on the condition that he/she makes his/her definition clear. That is of course particularly important for the authors of a specific guide.
The place of more fundamental research
The definitions mentioned above do not necessarily include scientific research conducted in the South, but which does not have development as an objective – at least on the short and medium term. Nevertheless, any good quality research can indeed potentially bring a significant contribution to development. Let us just consider two examples: the space sciences leading to satellite detection, climatology, etc; or medical research influencing health systems organisation, epidemiology, etc. For obvious reasons fundamental research conducted in the South, while not excluded, is however not central to the object of the present Guidelines.
Research FOR development and research ON development
The participants in the 2009 Meeting also discussed research on development and they agreed that both aspects are necessary : they indeed belong to the Guidelines’ objectives.
The requirement of comprehensiveness
Every research proposal, result, paper, etc. should be evaluated with a view to the context, that is comprehensively. The topic under consideration is then seen as a part of a broader whole, which needs to be taken into account.
Strengthening research capacity
Strengthening the research capacity of research institutions and universities in the South, together with institutional building, is an important component of development and of development aid. Since it is an aspect that is raised quite often at the time of evaluation (for example evaluation of a project, of a research team) it deserves to be reminded here.
Let us remind also that the strengthening of research for and on development in the North is equally necessary.