The World Bank was a leading organiser of a conference in early December which convened 400 researchers and heads of development think tanks to discuss ways to generate and share research to shape policies. The Global Development Network (GDN) initiative aims to improve communications between policy practitioners and researchers by establishing “a broad intellectual association – an ‘invisible college'”.
Opening the conference, Ugandan Prime Minister Apolo R. Nsibambi, said:
“There is insufficient interface between the knowledge community and the community of policy makers, both nationally and internationally.”
The conference was also geared towards institutional development and fund-raising for thinktanks. The World Bank has allocated $7 million in this area, to be chanelled through regional institutions or networks. At the conference Shaida Baidee from the Bank’s Development Economics Data Group, outlined the Bank’s role as a facilitator or broker of data exchanges. Its new “GDN data initiative” includes:
- long term capacity building and training for researchers, plus tools for data management;
- broader access to data for GDN members via an internet system with cross country and global macro data as well as micro level and specialized research databases.
- fostering data exchange among GDN members.
- creating a discussion space for members to provide feedback to each other.
Whilst many may see this initiative as a boost to research, it appears that the network will largely focus on narrow economic issues. Also, the World Bank may appear to be further spreading its influence across possible sources of critical commentary on its activities. The restriction of the above Bank services to GDN members will exclude others. Lyla Mehta, Fellow of the Institute for Development Studies, UK and author of a recent paper on the “Knowledge Bank” commented:
“The Bank seems keen to cast a new role for itself as a leading player in knowledge networks. It does so without reflecting what constitutes knowledge and who has access to it. Sometimes there does not even seem to be a clear boundary between knowledge and public relations. The recent embrace of knowledge in World Bank needs to be viewed with caution”.
For more details of the GDN initiative, see: www.gdnet.org
For Lyla Mehta’s paper, see: Journal of Development Studies Vol 36: 1. October 1999: 151-162, www.frankcass.com/jnls