Research overview

Practical development research helps inform where and how our own and our partners’ resources can most effectively and efficiently be deployed. It helps to find solutions to priority development challenges and opportunities. Research investments are managed across the department in line with the research requirements of our country, regional, sectoral and thematic programs, working with partner governments and other stakeholders.

Why we give aid for research

DFAT funded development research is helping to improve the quality and effectiveness of Australian aid in developing countries. A robust and relevant knowledge base provides the evidence we need for sound development policies and programs.

We define research as the creation of new knowledge and/or the use of existing knowledge in a new way in order to investigate complex issues or emerging challenges, or test solutions to problems. The definition excludes data collection and analytical work that is part of routine agency business processes that only has an internal department audience.

Australian aid funds many different types of research to answer development challenges, to assist us to monitor development impact, or to better target programs. We fund research that:

  • is directed towards a specific practical aim. This can be characterised by one or more methodologies, including action research, statistical data analysis (including analysis of sex and disability disaggregated data), longitudinal studies, multi-disciplinary research, epidemiological research, participatory research, impact evaluation, cost-benefit analysis, qualitative research, quantitative research.
  • uses the results of applied research and of empirical knowledge to produce new goods or services; find new ways to develop products, or to grow a market, i.e., creating value from knowledge.
  • analyses and summaries of primary research. As well as bringing together the best answers already available, research synthesis identifies gaps in available research to better inform development policy. This includes both literature and systematic reviews.

For research to achieve its potential in enhancing policy and resulting in improvements to people’s lives, it needs to be used.

Research use is a complex process that goes beyond the publication and dissemination of results. We use a number of strategies to promote the use of research within DFAT and by partners, including:

  • investing in research driven by users. Research that is linked to end-user needs is more likely to have influence and impact.
  • supporting researchers to communicate their findings and recommendations effectively. Targeted communication between researchers and policy makers or practitioner groups plays an important role in getting research used.
  • making research available and accessible to all stakeholders. We are committed to making the products of research funded by Australian aid publicly available and accessible to all.

How we give aid for research

Australia supports development research investments driven by the research requirements of our country and regional programs, working with partner governments.

Most of our research funding is provided through country programs and sector or thematic programs, with a smaller share through global and regional programs. This decentralised approach ensures our portfolio of activity has close links to program design and implementation.

To deliver an effective research program which provides better value for money, we are committed to:

  • ensure that funded research helps improve the effectiveness of Australian aid
  • enhance performance oversight
  • enhance evaluation and risk management
  • ensure greater coordination through partnerships
  • promote better use of research evidence, knowledge management, and greater transparency
  • build research capacity of developing country institutions.