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Doing Research Pilot

Maria Balarin, GRADE, Peru, at a seminar on building research culture in developing countries, New Delhi.

The Doing Research pilot phase was the first step to characterize, describe, and whenever possible, measure the most relevant features for research across case studies of the research environment in eleven countries. It was implemented by GDN between April 2014 and April 2016 with seven research teams in Africa (Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, South Africa), Latin America (Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru) and Asia (Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia). Covering a diverse sample of countries in very different contexts, and using varied research methodologies, the pilot phase provided rich qualitative information on the complex nature of research environments. 

The pilot phase focused on a broad set of objectives, which included:

  • Identifying and developing objective measures (both qualitative and quantitative) of key elements of the research environment that have significant impact on the ability to train researchers in developing countries to undertake quality research and communicate it effectively to a broad range of stakeholders.
  • Exposing important shortcomings and barriers to research to the relevant stakeholders including academia, policy-makers, civil society and donor organizations in order to bring into mainstream, issues related to the research environment, research support and funding and the demand for it as one of the key policy concerns in developing countries.
  • Deriving a systematic framework to compare the research environment across countries and across time.


The Doing Research Pilot Phase Synthesis, produced by the Centre for Research and Expertise on Education and Development (CREED), laid the foundations for a first set of defining properties that characterize an effective enabling research environment, and for an analytical framework to better understand research systems in a variety of contexts. The report examined the different methodological approaches used in the nine pilot studies, and analyzed their main findings and relevance for GDN’s ambition to scale-up the program. It presented the studies’ main conclusions and revealed interesting complementarities between different countries and contexts. The results of this transversal analysis are then presented through a picture of how the research environment could be deconstructed and analyzed.

The synthesis was discussed with a panel of international experts in the Doing Research Pilot Synthesis & Scale-Up workshop organized by GDN on 26-27 May 2016 in Brighton, United Kingdom. The panel’s mission was to build on the synthesis’ findings to develop a robust and validated analytical framework. This resulted in clarifications to both the conceptual basis of the Doing Research program and the methodological choices that needed to be made to move on to the next steps.


An external evaluator – Jigsaw Consult – carried out the evaluation of the Doing Research Pilot Phase. The evaluator participated in the Global Peer-Review Workshop on 29-30 October 2015 and conducted in depth interviews with all project participants. The final report was published on 2nd September 2016. Download the full Evaluation Report.

The evaluation adopted a mixed-method approach that combines qualitative data gathered in interviews and through an online survey, and an analysis of the project’s research outputs. The conclusion of the evaluation was that the project enabled all teams to carry out a piece of research that they see as original, relevant and valuable in their context. GDN provided a range of inputs including funding, workshops, external advisors, and general support. GDN was identified as comparing favorably to other donors in a number of areas, including the flexibility and trust afforded to researchers, the level of personalized support, and the quality of academic input on research provided by external advisors and at workshops.

The pilot phase was generously supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Agence Française de Développement(AFD), French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Developmentand the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

Find out about the teams here.