Norwegian development research: an evaluation

Norwegian development research: an evaluation

Key findings and recommendations regarding Norwegian development research

The objective of this evaluation, initiated by the Research Council of Norway (RCN), is to provide a basis for strengthening Norwegian development research. Its purpose is to contribute to improved quality, relevance, internationalisation and focus/identity. The evaluation also aims to strengthen the role that research on developing countries and development issues plays in Norwegian research policy.

Key findings of the report are:

  • Norwegian development research is well funded and adequately staffed
  • the share of funding from foreign sources is considerably higher than for Norwegian social sciences in general 
  • the general impression is that Norwegian development research provides high quality 
  • the number of Norwegian articles in good outlets has increased substantially, this means that Norwegian development researchers have become more competitive and that their visibility has been enhanced 
  • the scope of Norwegian development research is wide, but there are still some research areas which receive more emphasis than others, notably governance, natural resource management, marginalisation of people, and gender issues 
  • Norwegian development researchers excel in research on human rights, armed conflict, the displacement of people, and natural resource issues 
  • Norwegian development research has policy relevance, as well as wider relevance for civil society and developing countries 
  • in general, it seems that a high proportion of the research is directed in some way at user needs. The research results are communicated to a broad set of users, and the work of Norwegian development researchers seems to be relevant and used in several different contexts.
However the report suggests that despite a good overall performance there is indeed room for improvement and hence suggests the following recommendations:
  • there needs to be a clearer acceptance of research on development issues as part of the mainstream social sciences
  • supportive conditions for independent critical research and broader relevance should be ensured, relationships characterised by dependency should be avoided, and research units should take care to maintain a critical distance from Norwegian aid authorities 
  • a larger share of the resources should be allocated through open calls for proposals and be based on academic quality criteria only 
  • future policy making needs to take into account that capacity building, and long-term money securing capacity building, represent the bottleneck in Norwegian development research, not the overall amount of resources available.