A question often asked of United Nations organizations is whether their research on social development issues is useful for international policy making. Implicit in this question are concerns about the relevance, quality, dissemination and impact of research.
- Are researchers addressing the sorts of issues and questions of concern to policy makers?
- Do research findings reach policy makers and inform policy making both internationally and at the country level?
- Who conducts UN research, and how does research commissioned by international and bilateral agencies interact with researchers in developing countries and impact their research agenda?
- Is UN research sufficiently independent and critical?
- Can UN research add anything to that being undertaken within academic institutions and NGOs?
Also implicit in this question is the assumption that knowledge and policy stand in a direct or unproblematic relation to each other. To understand how research impacts policy it is necessary, however, to examine how the relationship is mediated by politics, discourse, subjectivity and learning. It is also important to understand the implications of new institutional developments associated with networking, alliances, partnerships, “knowledge agencies” and organizational learning.
To address these issues, UNRISD organized a two-day conference, held in Geneva in April 2004, to assess the intellectual contribution of United Nations research; its impact on policy making; technical aspects related to the relevancy, co-ordination and dissemination of research; the nature of relations between international development research and the academic and activist communities, particularly in developing countries; and the current and future status of independent and critical research within the UN system. A total of 32 speakers and panellists addressed these issues.
The event will also provide an occasion to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of UNRISD and to present to an international audience the report Research for Social Change
, which reviews and synthesizes 40 years of UNRISD research. It will also be part of a series of activities associated with the UNRISD project “Improving Research and Knowledge on Social Development in International Organizations”, which periodically brings together senior UN officials in a dialogue on key development issues.
This conference is expected to produce nine published documents, including:
- Eight papers to be published (subject to peer review) either as UNRISD Programme Papers or in an edited volume;
- A report that summarizes the conference discussions. The Conference Report will be translated into French and Spanish.
The eight papers prepared for the conference are available under "Presentations".