The Earth’s finite resources are being depleting at an unprecedented rate, with dire consequences for bio-ecological and socio-ecological systems, at the same time as poverty, inequality and other fundamental injustices are still widespread in the world. Development research is therefore more important than ever.
As is explored in detail in this report, development research has been part of Swedish academia since the 1960s. What began as a sub-area of economics and trade (SOU 1973) has today expanded far beyond the social sciences. It now engages scholars across a range of disciplines, from the humanities to the natural sciences, medicine and health sciences (VR 2019).
Despite the fact that it has been part of the Swedish academic arena for six decades, and a well-established discipline that is popular among students in most Swedish universities, there is no Swedish network or association tasked with promoting research and knowledge exchange or cooperation with other researchers, development practitioners and policymakers. Unlike the development research communities in Denmark, Finland and Norway, which have all benefited from national networks that have been organizing development researchers since the early 1980s, the Swedish development research community has not been supported by a scholarly association.
There have been attempts in the past to create collaborative spaces, but these have not been sustained over time and there are currently only a few development-related specialized networks that successfully gather smaller segments of development researchers but fail to engage the broader community. There has also been no comprehensive mapping of Swedish development research since an official report by the Swedish Government in the early 1970s (SOU 1973:41).
The aims of this report are to map the Swedish development research community and to develop a better understanding of the discipline’s current standing as a research field and its connections with policy and practitioners. The authors hope that the report will serve as background material for concrete actions that support development researchers including their research environments in Sweden, as well as provide a platform for critical discussion of how development research can better support practitioners and policymakers.