International development research

What to consider if you plan to do research with partners in low and middle-income countries (LMICs)

Research funding to tackle global development challenges

In Spring 2021, the UK Government significantly reduced the allocation of Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding made available for research. This has meant that major funds like the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and Newton have now closed.

For those still interested in pursuing research to tackle global development challenges, there are  other sources of funding available – both from ODA and non-ODA sources.

View international development funding opportunities

When applying to any of these funds, it is important to lay the foundations that will allow truly collaborative research with partners in the Global South, which will contribute to real and positive change in those countries.

Strong partnerships

Successful research projects rely on strong partnerships with those in LMIC. These should include both academic and non-academic actors, such as NGOs, industry and civil society.

It is fundamental that these partnerships are ethical, equitable and sustainable and they should be established well in advance of writing an application to a funding call.

We have an in-depth guide for researchers wishing to build fair and equitable partnerships in LMICs.

The toolkit identifies important issues that academics should address in order to:

  1. ensure research collaborations are fair, equitable, sustainable and have long lasting impact
  2. strengthen research proposals and increase chances of being awarded funding
  3. maintain the University’s good reputation for developing partnerships with integrity

View Toolkit - Building ethical sustainable partnerships

Considering impact from the outset

The primary purpose of development research is to promote the economic development and/or welfare of people LMICs. Therefore, perhaps more crucially than with some other funding streams, impact – and your pathway to impact – needs to be considered right from the outset.

International development funders are more technical in their requirements, with a focus on concepts such as 'Theory of Change', 'Logframes' and 'monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) frameworks'.

It is essential that researchers who are applying for international development research funding fully understand these concepts and tools in order to develop competitive research proposals.

We have developed comprehensive resources – including a toolkit, webinars and written resource guides - to help you with this.

View international development research impact resources (University staff only)

Gender in international development research

Experience has shown we cannot assume that technology and research will benefit everyone equally. Impacts interact with existing social structures – such as gender inequality. In the development sector, experience has shown that projects that take gender specific experiences into account are far more effective and deliver more positive outcomes in ensuring the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal’s central agenda to ‘leave no one behind’. 

Therefore funders are increasingly asking for evidence that projects have taken into account how gender is relevant and demonstrate that they are taking active steps to reduce inequalities.

GenderED – the University’s interdisciplinary hub for gender and sexualities studies – has developed a suite of resources to help you do this.

Gender sensitive research - resources

Ethical Action in Global Research

All research conducted by the University of Edinburgh must comply with the highest standards of integrity and ethical practice, as set out in the UKRIO Concordat to Support Research Integrity. Research activities conducted in LMICs and/or with partners in LMICs present additional ethical challenges in order to make the research truly equitable, throughout all stages of the research, including but not restricted to:

  • Place: The context in which the research takes place (including cultural, political, economic and social forces), and its impact on the research activities
  • People: All those involved in the research (including the research team, funders, partners, participants, and potential beneficiaries), and their needs and concerns
  • Principles: The multiple values and standards that guide the research (from the UK, in other countries, in different disciplines etc.), and how these may intersect
  • Precedent: Learning from and building on past individual and/or collective experiences and insights

The University of Edinburgh has funded the development of an ethics toolkit for researchers, practitioners and others who conduct or support research in complex, low income or fragile settings.

This toolkit is the result of a series of discussions with more than 200 global researchers from more than 30 countries designed to inform and support ethical choices in global research.

We recommend using the toolkit as a framework to consider many ethical issues that can exist throughout the lifecycle of a global project – from idea and proposal development, to data collection and analysis, through to dissemination and impact.

We also fully endorse the recent toolkits and guidance developed by UKCDR, the collaborative of development research funders and Association of Commonwealth Universities.

UKCDR Four approaches to supporting equitable research partnerships Association of Commonwealth Universities equitable Partnerships toolkit:

Ethical Action in Global Research - Toolkit 

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Next steps

Types of international development research funding

Guidance on writing an international development research proposal

All international development research resources (University staff only)