Official Global Development Network Management Response to our post on GDN Research

The following entry was written by the management of the Global Development Network in response to our June 15 2009 post, A $3 million book with 8 readers? The impact of donor-driven research. The main point of our post was that GDN’s annual budget of $9 million had produced paltry results in publications, readers, or citations. We attributed this partly to a decision made early on to administer research through a bureaucracy rather than follow the meritocratic competition model of academic research.

The GDN response, which we received by email this week, is reproduced here verbatim:

A series of points raised the article merit clarifications for factual accuracy.

Objectives of GDN:

  • generation and sharing of multidisciplinary knowledge for the purpose of development
  • capacity building
  • networking (particularly South-South)
  • policy outreachIn this context, the number of publications in international development journals measures outcomes in just one of the objectives.

    Knowledge Creation, Publications and Career Development:

    The GDN Independent Evaluation 2007 reported that:

    • a median of two publication types per grant for Regional Research Competitions (RRCs) and for Global Research Projects (GRPs)
  • on average one of every two grantees published in an international journal, two of three in a national journal, two of three as a book chapter, and just over one working paper per person
  • these figures represent upper bounds on GDN’s effect on knowledge creation, as GDN cannot take credit in every case due to attribution
  • researchers surveyed also report enhanced knowledge of their subject, increased visibility, positive impact on careers and valuable networking opportunities through their affiliation with GDNA recent review of GDN conducted by the World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group in 2008 stated that:
    • GDN is supporting increased amounts of development research from within developing and transition countries
  • GDN-funded research has led to an increase in the dissemination of this research through papers, journal articles and books. (1)
  • In the 2006 capacity building pilot evaluation, external reviewers assessed much of GDN-supported research to be of publishable quality: (2)
  • with revision, 66% of papers in FY02 were judged to be publishable in refereed journals rising to almost 80% in FY05
  • a decline in number of papers not considered worthy of publication in current form from 36% in FY02 to 15% in FY05
  • demonstrated value of mentoring: if appropriately revised, 79% of papers were worthy of publication in refereed journals in FY05, a 30% increase from FY02.GDN-publishability.png


    Several past studies noted evidence of higher numbers of citations in open access publications as opposed to expensive journals, although the evidence is not conclusive.

    Nonetheless, there is a problem of access to the scientific literature in developing countries. In Gaule (2009), we find, controlling for the quality and field of research, that the reference lists of Indian scientists are shorter, contain fewer references to expensive journals, and contain more references to open access journals than the reference lists of Swiss scientists. (…) The goal of open access advocates to have all scientific publications freely available to the world from the day of publication is laudable. But in the short run, it is more important to make scientific publications freely available for developing countries, because this is where the problem really is. (Source)

    GDN is committed to facilitating access, providing free of cost access to datasets and journals (J-STOR, Eldis); to all the GDN-funded research; as well as to almost 14,000 additional papers posted by researchers from developing and transition countries online in GDN’s Knowledge Base.

    Cost-Effective Core Activities:

    All GDN evaluations highlighted the cost effectiveness of its activities and the low overhead charged by the Secretariat (8-12%) compared to other similar organizations. The cost per study on average (2004-2007) in three noted GRPs have been:

    • Bridging Research and Policy = $ 92,243
  • Impact of Rich Countries Policies on Poverty = $ 57,830
  • Multidisciplinary and Intermediation Research Initiative = $ 54,211Budget:

    The budget for the 3 year Explaining Growth Global Research Project was, according to GDN’s financial records, less than $2 million dollars, including all thematic papers, case studies, capacity building workshops, mentoring fees (including Bill Easterly’s fee), publications and presentations at regional and global conferences.


    GDN is “not a World Bank-supported effort to promote development research.” GDN is only partly funded by the World Bank, with a declining share over time.


    GDN used regional networks to administer the project titled Explaining Growth (GRP) but grant allocation to researchers was competitive. Moreover, the Awards and Medals competition is an open competition with roughly 600-700 submissions annually. All RRCs and GRPs since Explaining Growth (the first one) have not been carried out in a “bureaucratic manner” but through open competitions, the modus operandi at GDN.


    (1) For example, GDN’s publication series, designed to give voice to researchers from developing and transition countries, has released 13 books to-date, with several edited volumes from GDN’s first Global Research Project on “Explaining Growth.” In partnership with the series’ publisher – Edward Elgar, GDN is able to makes these books available for half price to individuals from developing and transition countries registered on its Knowledge Base and copies of all publications under the series will soon be available electronically free of cost to registered users of GDN’s website.

    (2) Papers reviewed included all RRC papers available for FY02 and FY05 as well as papers randomly selected by the World Bank, produced through the other major GDN activities (GRPs, Awards and Medals Competition and Annual Conferences) in FY02 and FY05.