What is the evidence on the impact of research on international development?
Research does make significant contributions to socioeconomic development but some commonly held assumptions are not backed up by evidence
Governments of low-income countries and international development donors are increasing their funding for research at least in part on the assumption that research has positive impacts on socioeconomic development. Four pathways are commonly cited to describe how research will contribute to development:
- Investment in research will drive economic growth
- Investment in research will increase human capital
- Investment in research will lead to the development of pro-poor products and technologies
- Investment in research will provide evidence to inform policies and practice
This literature review examines the evidence base related to each of these four pathways. It demonstrates that research does make important and significant contributions to socioeconomic development but that some commonly held assumptions about how research leads to change are not backed up by the evidence.
The paper also reviews approaches to calculating the economic impacts of research investments. Most studies suggest that research leads to positive economic returns. However, these studies are sensitive to a range of assumptions and results must be treated cautiously. The paper ends with a summary of conclusions and a proposed theory of change based on the research evidence presented.
Newman, K. What is the evidence on the impact of research on international development? UK Department for International Development (DFID), London, UK (2014) 72 pp.