Research knowledge and global development

Julie Brittain, newly appointed Executive Director of INASP, on the powerful links between research expertise and national and global development.

Research and knowledge can play a powerful role in development. Local research expertise based on a deep experience of local context – and the ability to translate knowledge into policy and practice – are crucial to help developing countries cope with development challenges such as rapid urbanization and the increasing effects of climate change. Emergency situations like the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the major earthquake in Nepal last year highlight the need for research knowledge that is deeply informed by local context.

INASP ( is an international development charity working with a global network of partners to improve access, production and use of research information and knowledge, so that countries are equipped to solve their development challenges.

INASP strengthens the ability of individuals and institutions to negotiate the global landscape of research and policy making. A recent example is an initiative from ACTS (the African Centre for Technology Studies) which, with INASP support, brought together climate scientists, policymakers and other relevant stakeholders so that the country’s new climate-change bill could be informed by research evidence. Not only did the project help to inform how the challenge of climate change is dealt with in Kenya; it also helped contribute to international debates when ACTS was invited to participate at COP21 in Paris.

This is not an isolated example. We recently shared the story of a mental-health researcher in Somalia who has been supported to publish his research concerning improvements to the treatment of mental health patients in the country. Up to one in three people in Somalia have been affected by mental illness in some form according to estimates from the World Health Organization, a problem that was discussed in this recent Guardian article.

We have seen many inspiring examples over the years from our southern partners of local research making a difference to local development. However, there continue to be huge disparities between the north and the south in terms of research and knowledge. Northern funders hold the power and often set the research agenda in both north and south – and this can serve to exclude southern research and publications.

It is an exciting time for INASP and our partners and I am delighted to have taken on the role of Executive Director. I look forward to leading the organisation as we continue to support people to develop the professional skills needed to negotiate the global research and knowledge system. We will also continue to work in partnership with organizations to advocate for a system that better enables southern researchers and others to participate in global conversations on a more equal footing.

Julie Brittain is the new Executive Director of INASP.  She has worked in the information sector for 30 years, including roles at the British Council and the Institute of Development Studies.