Academic journal article Global Governance

Producing Knowledge for Development: Research at the World Bank

Academic journal article Global Governance

Producing Knowledge for Development: Research at the World Bank

Article excerpt

Research is one of the important activities of the World Bank and an essential input to lending. To meet the challenges of development and poverty reduction, the Bank must combine the power of ideas and knowledge with finance. Generating knowledge about the impact of policies in specific contexts is essential to accelerating growth and achieving the UN's Millennium Development Goals in developing countries. Creating knowledge involves data production, analytical studies, global monitoring and projections, statistical capacity building, policy review, and advice. The "lending, learning, and knowledge" cycle has both an internal and an external dimension.

Research findings are an essential input to Bank operations and lending. They are used in the Bank's advisory services, which include policy dialogue with governments, analytical reports (known in Bank jargon as economic and sector work), and technical assistance. In addition to research, development practitioners and policymakers need access to good-quality country-level and comparative data. This must be combined with high-quality global monitoring and consistent projections to enable policymakers to adjust development strategies to a rapidly changing external environment.

World Bank lending provides opportunities for learning about development. Key to such learning is the evaluation of programs in a rigorous way that isolates their effects from those of other factors. Ex post, research strengthens the lending-learning-knowledge cycle by drawing lessons from lending operations. Ex ante, it explores the likely outcomes of different policy options by applying historically derived knowledge to current development challenges.

Externally, the Bank influences the global environment in which development efforts are undertaken by producing and disseminating research and data that contribute to global development knowledge. Bank staff is given the mandate and resources to do so by its governing body, which represents governments. Bank publications address the specific needs of clients, as well as issues and themes crucial to understanding the development process itself. These publications boost developing countries' access to information and analytical capacity and strengthen their ability to engage on the global stage.

This article first describes the organization, staffing, resources, and research agenda at the World Bank. It then presents an assessment of the quality and relevance of this research, drawing on the findings of a recent independent evaluation.

Organization of World Bank Research

Research is done throughout the World Bank under the general direction of the senior vice-president and chief economist. Research is carried out by Bank staff, often in collaboration with external consultants. The bulk of research is conducted by the research group in the Development Economics Vice Presidency (DEC). Research is also produced by other staff from six regional vice presidencies (Africa, South Asia, etc.) and five networks: Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development, Infrastructure, Finance and Private Sector Development, Human Development, and Poverty Reduction and Economic Management.

Bank research is financed by the administrative budget (including a substantial amount financed by the Research Committee) and by external trust funds. The Research Committee, created in 1971 and chaired by the chief economist, has its own budget and allocates research grants competitively, following a formal review process. The Research Committee also supports capacity-building initiatives in developing countries, such as the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC), and provides financial support to economics education in underserved areas of the world.

DEC is divided into five teams: Data Group, Prospects Group, Research Group, Development Policy, and World Development Report. The Research Group produces empirical and methodological research on development policy. …

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