This briefing provides a summary of the REF2014 process and proposed changes in REF2021 of particular relevance to development research such as interdisciplinarity and definitions of impact.
Working in partnership across countries, disciplines and sectors is vital to understand the context of international development challenges and develop appropriate solutions.
Researchers are excellent at developing collaborations, however, working in global development can add specific challenges. These include finding the right partners in other countries and sectors, overcoming cultural and language differences, creating equitable relationships, and developing effective communications. Below we’ve put together a variety of resources to help you build successful, high impact collaborations.
Our own report, Finding and building effective and equitable research collaborations or partnerships, also explores the role of research funders in equitable and effective international development research collaborations.
Creating an effective, equal partnership
There are no simple rules for how to build efficient, effective and equitable research collaborations or partnerships. Factors for success include:
- A common, shared vision and purpose and realistically defined goals
- Support for the partnership from participating organisations
- Equitable sharing of resources, responsibilities, and benefits
- Transparent decision-making
- Creation of genuine respect and trust between the partners
- Pursuit and achievement of higher level outcomes beyond the partnership itself
There are lots of guides and resources available with tips and suggestions for how to build successful partnerships. We’ve picked out a few below:
- The Partnering Initiative provides a wealth of resources including case studies and tools for developing transdisciplinary and cross-sector partnerships in international development
- Co-producing knowledge is a toolbox of methods for jointly producing knowledge across different academic and non-academic fields of expertise.
Planning and building a partnership
- A brief two-page ‘how to’ guide from CGIAR with tips on planning and writing collaboration agreements for successful partnerships.
- An easy to read and practical Guide for Transboundary Research Partnerships with 11 principles and 7 key questions to analyse factors that hinder or enable partnerships in different contexts
- A slightly longer and in-depth guide of Good practices in Educational Partnerships based on experiences from UK-Africa partnerships in Further and Higher Education
- ELRHA Guide to Constructing Effective Partnerships between humanitarian and academic organisations.
Researchers discussing their experiences of building partnerships:
- Ian Scoones discusses experiences from an international transdisicplinary programme on human, livestock and ecosystem health and the challenges for research collaboration on global challenges.
- Time, effort and preparation are key as described by Gray Handley in Science
Formal and informal contacts, university research and international partnership offices, conferences and online networks such as LinkedIn, ResearchGate and Piirus are a good place to start to find partners internationally, across disciplines and sectors. There are also specific partner matching services and common interest networks and, increasingly, funding calls include partnering or networking events. The following list provides an overview of national, international and common interest networks that could help you to find partners.
- The UK Science and Innovation Network (SIN) consists of 90 staff, based in 28 countries around the world, including Newton Fund officers. The SIN is a good first point of contact for science and innovation opportunities in the UK and internationally through events, networking activities and direct contact. Visit the SIN website for in-country staff contacts and to subscribe to country and regional newsletters. If you are looking for connections at international organisations or NGOs based in Geneva, contact Elisabeth Wallace at SIN Switzerland.
- The International Unit of Universities UK (UUK) supports the UK Higher Education sector’s international activities. It can provide some support for UK and international organisations looking for contacts to build research partnerships. It also provides a partnering service for students applying for PhD’s under the Newton Fund, and has an online noticeboard of researchers who are looking for collaborators under the Newton Fund calls.
- The Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) offer several networks which allow members to share knowledge and best practice, and provide for debate and discussion on key policy and operational issues.
- The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) works for the advancement of science and engineering for sustainable prosperity in the developing world. It has regional offices around the world.
- INASP works with partners to support global research communication through innovation, networking and capacity strengthening, focusing on the needs of developing and emerging countries. INASP’s AuthorAID platform has over 12,000 members from more than 170 countries. It supports researchers in LMICs to find collaborators and mentors to help them through the process of research design, writing and publication.
Finding collaborators and opportunities:
- Piirus is a free online platform enabling researchers to find collaborators around the world.
- EURAXESS supports researcher mobility and acts as a support mechanism for researchers moving abroad or moving to the UK.
Common interest networks:
- The Development Studies Association is the UK’s learned society and professional body for academic teaching and research, policy and practice in the field of international development and includes a directory of members.
- ELHRA supports partnerships between researchers and practitioners to improve the effectiveness of humanitarian action. It runs a number of partnership support initiatives.
- BOND is the UK membership body for NGOs working in international development and NIDOS brings together the international development sector in Scotland.
- The Low Carbon Energy for Development Network (LCEDN) aims to expand research capacity around low-carbon development in the countries of the Global South and hosts a database of experts.
- The UK Sanitation Community of Practice (SanCoP) connects a wide range of professionals with an interest in sanitation from academic and research institutions, NGOs, public and private organisations.
- Geology for Global Development provides advice and expertise on the effective integration of geology into international development projects.