Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

Views from the Center

CGD experts offer ideas and analysis to improve international development policy. Also check out our Global Health blog and US Development Policy blog.

 

Close up of a hand using a test tube and pipette. Photo from Adobe Stock.

This Is the Perfect Moment to Redesign UK Aid Spend on Research

A new ICAI report issued this week suggests that large parts of UK aid spending on research and development remain hampered by a design that favors British researcher interests over urgent research topics and capacity prioritized by the world’s poorest countries. The next few months are a perfect opportunity to fix that problem, because the two most problematic funds are up for renewal.

Image of Mikaela Gavas and Simon Maxwell testifying to the House of Lords

Got Brexit Done. What Now for International Development?

“Get Brexit Done” was the Conservative Party’s election-winning slogan last month. Formally, that objective has been achieved. But what does that mean for international development—for aid, humanitarian relief, trade, security, migration, climate change, and beyond? Last week we gave evidence to the House of Lords EU External Affairs Sub-Committee on development cooperation after Brexit. Below we sketch out some of our key discussion points.

Visualization breaking down where most aid goes

Focusing UK Research Aid Where It Matters

The UK’s development agency, DFID, has stated that it views research as the best way to spend aid and that it intends to place high quality research central to its aid strategy. In a new paper, we find significant problems with the way that UK aid is being used to back research: a huge ramp-up in support has largely gone to fund opaque, unfocused research in UK universities. There are better approaches.

Flowchart showing an overview of the policy cycle, and where ICAI fits in and can influence decisions.

Results vs. Claims: Strengthening the UK’s Aid Watchdog

ICAI has just entered its third four-year phase. ICAI is a major asset in ensuring aid is well-spent. Having reviewed ICAI’s prior work, we think ICAI could should focus more on “results claims”—that is, whether the estimates of expected benefits that underpin decision-making by Ministers are well-evidenced.

The UK Needs a New Formula for ODA-Funded Research

The UK government has recently ramped up the amount of aid that is directed towards research and development. While this can be positive in ensuring a sound research base for UK aid funds, this should not be seen as an opportunity to plug UK university funding deficits, or to "tie aid" to the UK economy.

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