Making science work for development

Your Research: Science for Global Good

Do you want to use your skills and knowledge to help tackle the world's toughest challenges?

Global development challenges such as infectious diseases, conflict and food security are complex and dynamic. To develop appropriate solutions we need new thinking, input from all disciplines and equitable global collaborations.  

Explore our inspirational case studies of UK-funded researchers using innovative approaches from nanotechnology to behavioural psychology. Navigate the opportunities using our funding hub and tips for building partnerships.

What does research for development look like?

New approaches to complex challenges

The need for research to help tackle development challenges is increasingly recognised. The challenges include developing resilient agricultural and food systems, reducing the risk of disasters, tackling neglected diseases and developing appropriate digital technology. The intellectual challenge requires creative approaches, working in teams across disciplines and sectors, and designing solutions based on a deep understanding of the local context. Because these challenges have often received less research investment, they offer real potential for innovation and scientific impact. 

Read the case studies below to find out how researchers have used their skills and expertise from other areas to tackle development challenges.

Making a difference

There can surely be no greater reward than working with others to improve the lives and wellbeing of people and the environment. This can come in many forms such as training researchers in new techniques, working with policy-makers to use evidence from your field or developing a new crop strain or health technology. 

Explore UKCDS' top 20 impact case studies for examples of researchers who've used a variety of approaches to make a difference


Developing your career

Funding for global development research is increasing, ranging from training and travel grants, to long-term international research projects. The funding is often flexible, enabling you to build international and interdisciplinary collaborations to tackle important and interesting challenges. Studies also suggest that collaborative international research has greater impact, including higher average citations.

Look at our funding hub and read our tips on Finding and Building Effective Partnerships.


Questions to consider are how could your current work be applied to development contexts? Could you partner with someone who needs your skills in a different discipline or another country?

Development research seeks to alleviate poverty and improve people’s health and wellbeing. ‘Traditional development’ approaches are still needed to improve access to sanitation, drinking water, electricity and to support people affected by conflict. However, the challenges that low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) face are increasingly complex, sometimes similar to those in richer countries, and researchers and governments in LMICs are already utilising technological and social innovations adapted to their populations.  

Good places to get ideas for where more research is needed are talking to colleagues and reading our REF impact case studies, the Sustainable Development Goals, ID100: 100 key questions for the post-2015 Development Agenda, and 50 Breakthroughs: the critical scientific & technological breakthroughs required for sustainable global development. Having the right partners is vital to make sure whatever you work on will be appropriate to the context and have impact, read our partnership resource page to learn more.

Beyond research there are many different ways that you can utilise your skills and expertise, including advising policy makers or training scientists. This DFID guide to 'research uptake' is a good place to start to think about activities that can facilitate the use of research and the ODI Roma Guide is a toolkit for policy engagement and influence.


Research for development funding from the UK government is classified as Official Development Assistance (ODA) and is monitored by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The OECD defines a list of countries based on their income, low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), which can receive ODA.

Low and middle-income countries as defined by the OECD

DAC List of ODA Recipients 

The UK Department for International Development has 28 priority countries. The Newton Fund operates with 16 partner countries. In November 2015, the government announced a new Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) which will fund research around challenges affecting ODA recipient countries. As non-governmental organisations, funders such as the Wellcome Trust, are not limited to the ODA definition and so may use other criteria to establish in which countries they will fund.

Funding for development-relevant research is increasing in size and is varied, from small travel grants to long-term international research projects. To help you navigate the major funding opportunities we have created this funding overview and are constantly adding new open funding calls available in the UK and internationally. Talking to research managers in your institution is also a great way to find out about opportunities relevant to your area of work and to be connected with people who may be looking for your skills.

Building strong and equitable partnerships with people in other disciplines and the communities affected by the challenge you are tackling is vital for developing appropriate solutions that are more likely to be effective. To help you we've put together a networking and partnerships resource with tips for building partnerships and a list organisations that can help you to connect with other people. Do you know of other organisations that we should add to the list? Contact us - infoatukcds [dot] org [dot] uk

Our Top 20 impact stories show how impact and research excellence co-exist in global development. Research excellence is vital in global development with deep understanding and new knowledge needed to develop breakthroughs to long-term intractable challenges and view problems from new perspectives. But getting that research into use ('impact') in academia, communities or policy is also vital to achieve the rapid transformations envisaged, for instance in the Sustainable Development Goals

There are no simple predictors of potential benefit or outcomes, and no single measure of impact. Impact can include creating and sharing new knowledge and innovation; inventing groundbreaking new products, companies and jobs; developing new and improving existing public services and policy; enhancing quality of life and health; and much more.

Some aspects to think about when considering impact include the relevance of your research to the wider world, working closely from the beginning of your research project with the people who may use or benefit from your research, building long-term partnerships and networks and communicating your work to wider audiences.

Want more ideas or information? The Global Ghallenges Research Fund (GCRF) ODA guidance includes questions to think about when considering your Pathway to Impact. Read the information on impact from RCUK or the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

There is literature available on visas, travel and safety. Partnering with a non-governmental organisation (NGO) or research organisation already in the area is a good way of working in-country.