Knut G. Nustad and Ole J. Sending
The Global Development Network (GDN) is a network in the making of scholars, policy makers and donors that aims to create and share knowledge related to development efforts. Originating from and organised by the World Bank, the GDN forms part of its strategy of becoming a 'knowledge bank'. The GDN thus plays a part in the World Bank's emphasis on, first, the role of knowledge in social and economic development; and, second, the part played by civil society actors in addressing development issues.
The inaugural conference of the GDN in Bonn was organised under the heading 'Bridging Knowledge and Policy'. The main topic raised and discussed was how think tanks, research institutions and others could contribute to making knowledge more relevant to development policy. A key goal, according to the conference programme, was to 'enhance the quality and availability of policy-oriented research and strengthen the institutions which undertake this work'. (www.gdnet.org/bonn).
This is an important initiative that recognises and sets out to redress the general lack of communication between policy makers and researchers. It was therefore with a certain expectation that one of the authors arrived in Bonn hoping that he would be present at the launch of an institution that would provide a forum for discussions that included policy makers and researchers, thereby contributing to the institutionalisation of a sense of critical self-reflection in the development community. Critical analyses and insights about current development practices and problems seem to require a degree of detachment-a certain distance from the imperative of making research directly relevant to the needs of policy makers. The GDN has the potential to become an institution that will assume a certain degree of autonomy from the world of policy making but that could still deliver important insights into it.
However, the Bonn meeting left the impression that establishing the necessary distance and detachment from policy making proved more difficult than anticipated. A possible explanation, and a line of critique that was voiced by several participants at the meeting, was that discussions at the GDN stayed too much within the confines of a neo-liberal approach, where development is