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Monday, 22 January

09:18

Development research: real-world impact? Devpolicy Blog from the Development Policy Centre

It is the elusive goal which every researcher is being increasingly asked to achieve: demonstrate your works impact in the real-world (i.e. beyond your citation rates or publication figures). We see this reflected in the new Engagement and Impact Assessments required under the National Science and Innovation Agenda, and research institutions are grappling with what this means for how researchers are trained, tasked and reporting on their work.

In the field of international development, we are perhaps at a slight advantage the nature of the research and evidence production has always inherently sought to have tangible consequences on society, the environment or the economy. Our lofty goals of the betterment of lives and the sustainability of the planet have pointed us in the right direction when it comes to demonstrating impact.

And yet, when it comes to articulating our impact, our practice reflects that we are still not getting it right. The link between research outputs and research impact are not being made.

Research communications[1] and research uptake[2] are key determinants of whether any given research has impact (recognising that they are certainly not the only determinants). Academics and practitioners have been thinking about how we bridge the research production and use divide for decades (see examples here, here and here), however we still do not have a solid understanding of why the pathway to impact is so often broken.

We have not been able to effectively identify, socialise and train our research producers and users in the enablers and barriers of research use.

It is with this in mind that the Research for Development Impact (RDI) Network is undertaking an open survey of the international development sector on the topic of research communications and uptake.

The survey is designed to be completed by those who produce research, or play an active role in research translation or knowledge brokering for research users (b...

06:00

Dispossession and inequality in Papua New Guinea Devpolicy Blog from the Development Policy Centre

In a globalised world, how are inequalities produced, experienced, and reinforced? Its a big question for a small book, but one which Paige West admirably takes on in her 2016 essay collection, Dispossession and the Environment: Rhetoric and Inequality in Papua New Guinea. In it, West, a Professor of Anthropology at Barnard College and Columbia University in New York, draws on two decades of ethnographic fieldwork in PNG, primarily with Gimi-speaking peoples, as well as her involvement as a co-founder and board director of a national NGO there.

In short, as the title suggests, the book is concerned with the relationship between inequality and representation: the ways in which various forms of inequality presuppose and build upon specific representations of people and places. These representations are in turn premised on ideas about nature and culture. In the Introduction, West demonstrates how these ideas are neither neutral nor objective, invoking Regis Tove Stellas analysis of colonial representations of Papua New Guineans as exotic, primitive, unsophisticated and dangerous. (See Dr Michelle Rooneys excellent two-part review of Imagining the Other for more on Stellas work). West emphasises that although PNGs colonial era may have ended in 1975, [t]he twinned image of savage nature and savage native that derives from this nineteenth-century episteme endures today in the representational practices and rhetorical strategies that surround Papua New Guinea (p. 5). PNG is certainly not the only place where such practices and strategies endure (Congo comes to mind), but it is difficult to think of other places where they are as intensely applied.

The practical consequence of these practices and strategies, West argues, is the dispossession of Papua New Guineans of access to material resources today, as well as their future access to resources, and of sovereignty. Following indigenous scholars, West takes a broad definition of sovereignty, referring not only to political control, but also control over meaning, representations, the future, ideas, and the creation of social worlds and social reproduction (p. 6). The implication seems to be that control over representations is as consequential for the production and maintenance of inequality as political and material control making the task of achieving global equality that much more complex.

To flesh out the concepts presented in the Introduction, the book presents four essays (these were originally developed in 2013 as a series of lectures, so to a certain extent they are able to stand alone). Chapters 1, 2, and 3 examine how global forces of tourism, development and environmental conservation, respectively, effect dispossession in PNG. The final chapter explores indigenous Gimi theories of accumulation and disp...

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