Research Context and the Production of Paradigms and Theories of Development.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 09:55
Location: Hörsaal III (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Kate WILLIAMS, The University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
This paper will examine the ways in which research context, particularly funding and evaluation, influences the production of paradigms and theories of development. Knowledge production in policy/practice-focused research institutions is a topic of growing international interest. However, there is limited work that considers specific intellectual fields across organisational contexts and across countries. The paper will focus on the field of international development, where major changes in government, private sector and private foundation funders have accompanied changes in the organisation of research institutions. The study considers how the positions, strategies and intellectual interventions of development research institutions are influenced by research context, especially research funding and evaluation. Based on fieldwork with three research contexts - universities, think tanks and bi/multilaterals - across the UK, US and Australia, the project uses three types of analyses: (i) case studies of 12 institutions (ii) quantitative evaluation of research outputs and (iii) discursive analysis of 72 semi-structured interviews. The project considers how research context affects the type of research that is pursued, disseminated, translated into policy or practice and ultimately transformed into the enduring theories and paradigms in the field, as well as how researchers and institutions position themselves in this context. Comparing across contexts and countries, my approach focuses on the ways diverse development research organisations must negotiate institutional alliances, economic constraints and intellectual resources in order to establish their reputation and symbolic capital. I argue that institutions create intellectual change by establishing their location within the ‘spaces’ between institutional contexts, positioning themselves through the voice of their experts in public interventions. Utilising insights from sociology of knowledge and sociology of intellectual interventions, the paper elaborates the challenges of knowledge production in the context of global political economic changes.