A number of speakers from academia, Irish Aid, and non-governmental organisations met to discuss and debate the issue of linking development research, policy and practice. The keynote address was delivered by Professor Lawrence Haddad, Director of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, and the current President of the Development Studies Association of the UK and Ireland. He spoke about the need for academics to find a balance between having their research priorities entirely dictated by the policy establishment on the one hand, and remaining disengaged and “taking pot shots” at that establishment on the other hand.
This was followed by a number of presentations by Irish-based development researchers, Nick Chisholm and Mike Fitzgibbon of University College Cork (UCC); Sarah Hunt from the University of Limerick; and Andy Storey of University College Dublin (UCD), on aspects of the conference theme. Nick Chisolm provided a detailed account of the introduction of the ‘plumpy nut’ in Sub-Saharan Africa and the prospects for involving local growers in an anti-poverty as well as hunger eradication campaign. Sarah Hunt used a Latin American case study to show the difficulties in researching policy issues with activists. Andy Storey argued that Irish-based researchers’ are highly regarded internationally for their work on development issues, and asked whether the current crisis in Ireland could be explained and /or tackled by development researchers.
The politics of the relationship between research and policy was debated candidly in the final session by Bronagh Carr of Irish Aid, Caoimhe De Barra of Trócaire, and Peadar Kirby from the University of Limerick. Bronagh Carr discussed the tensions between academic research and policy making and posed the possibility of DSAI acting as place where researchers, policy makers and practitioners could engage in a respectful but open debate. Caoimhe De Barra showed how NGOs often engage in ‘quick’ research for focused campaigns and the difference between this modality and more disinterested academic research. Peadar Kirby focused broadly on the research/policy world differences and yet their need to engage; he endorsed the aims and objectives of the DSAI arguing that this should be an annual event where key issues of the day could be debated.
The day ended with the second annual general meeting of the DSAI and the election of the new DSAI Steering Committee. The new wesbite was presented and welcomed by all. It was agreed that the www.dsaireland.org should try to act as the virtual organizer of the development community in Ireland.