2020 Education and Research Mapping

Development Research in Sweden – A Dispersed Research Community Under Pressure

Elin Bjarnegård, Jonas Ewald, Flora Hajdu, Magnus Jirström, Rickard Lalander, Henning Melber, Cecilia Strand, Janet Vähämäki

This study was initiated and conducted by the newly established Swedish Development Research Network (SweDev) with support from the Expert Group for Aid Studies (EBA). The study has sought to map the Swedish development research community, and to develop a better understanding of the discipline’s current standing as a research field and its connections with policy and practitioners.

The report includes responses from an online survey and an overview of development research as an academic discipline. The web survey was sent out to development researchers at Swedish universities, institutions for higher learning and independent research institutes, as well as some research- oriented governmental agencies. The overview traces the progress of development research as an academic discipline in Sweden from its modest beginnings to its expansion since the 1990s. The analysis of Nordic experience draws on input from leading representatives of the development research associations of Denmark, Finland and Norway.

The report was presented during the seminar Utvecklingsforskning i Sverige – en kartläggning.

Main findings

  • The research community is fragmented with many smaller research environments and research groups geographically spread throughout Sweden.
  • Expansion from traditional notions of “development research” to “development-related research” is deeply connected to funding. While Swedish funding has been successful in expanding interest and number of researchers from a range of academic disciplines, it appears that the funding has not been helpful for strengthening capacity or environment for the traditional view of development research.
  • A majority of the researchers responded that they want more opportunities for interaction with practitioners and policymakers, and be engaged in communication with audiences beyond academia more than they currently are.