Connect South aims to link Southern researchers to development agendas
[NEW DELHI] An initiative has been launched to break the dominance of Northern agendas and practices in development debates and policy, and to increase the impact of Southern research on global development discussions.
The 'Connect South' campaign is spearheaded by the Global Development Network (GDN), an international organisation that works with local, regional and international organisations to help social scientists from developing countries generate new development-related knowledge.
Connect South's objectives include closing the knowledge gap between developed and developing countries, making good quality research easily accessible globally, and building the capacity of Southern researchers, according to Shahira Emara, knowledge services manager at GDNet's Cairo office.
The campaign invites partner organisations to sign a 'Charter of Commitments' and to outline how they will help Southern researchers communicate their work more effectively.
The overall aim is to break the dominance of Northern agendas in research, which GDNet claims make it harder for Southern research to be seen on an equal footing.
Although increasing numbers of international collaborations have made research more interconnected, researchers from developing 'Southern' countries are unable to participate as extensively or effectively as Northern countries in decisions that affect their countries, according to GDNet.
For example, a 2010 study found that Africa's contribution to international academic research in information and communication technologies (ICT) for development was "very low", at between one and nine per cent of publications. 
SciDev.Net recently reported on South Asian policy analysts' concerns that Southern voices were being marginalised in international discussions on the 'green economy' and sustainable development, during the run-up to the Rio+20 summit in June.
"There is a general trend for Southern research to cover practical case studies and applied knowledge, rather than the empirical, evidence-based, knowledge practised by Northern institutes, which have better access to resources for theoretical research."
Some key challenges facing Southern research institutes include accessing development research and data, securing research funding, and communicating research findings to peers and policy audiences.
Reliable access to good quality research and datasets — often financially inaccessible for Southern researchers — is particularly important, as they need to build on the work of the others and demonstrate to funders how their research will develop existing knowledge.
But access also needs to be coupled with 'information literacy', involving the ability to search for, evaluate and use information.
Mohan Munasinghe, chairman of the Munasinghe Institute for Development, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, told SciDev.Net: "I welcome the Connect South initiative, as it focuses on Southern issues, elicits key opinions from authentic Southern voices, builds Southern capacity to engage in global policy debates, and helps to level the playing field".
See below for more on the initiative:
Gitau, S. Platinga, P. and Diga, K. (2010), 'ICTD Research by Africans: Origins, Interests, and Impact' [217kB] in the proceedings of the 4th ICTD conference, December 13-16, London, United Kingdom.
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