The SOAS-Oxford Research for Development (R4D) lunchtime series

The increased diversification of the ODA funding portfolio brings new opportunities for research institutions to engage in development-focused research through schemes like GCRF and Newton Fund. But what does it mean to do research for development ethically and effectively? How are researchers' roles and expectations changing to meet the demands for impactful research? How should we engage with partners, decision makers and communities across cultural, gender and socioeconomic divides? What new pressures do research managers and research officers face to meet compliance requirements? Each event aims to bring together researchers, students and facilitators to learn, discuss and share insights on specific aspects of ODA-funded research in an informal, interactive and thought-provoking space. 


How to join

Each event will be hosted either by Oxford or SOAS with audiences connected via webcast and live tweet. Participants can join one of the venues or participate remotely via the livestream. A link will be made available via this page. 


Event series

Forthcoming events

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Speakers: Prof Jo Boyden (former Director of Young Lives, University of Oxford); Prof Emma Crewe (SOAS), Emily Graham (Due Diligence Manager, European and International Team, Research Services, University of Oxford) and Alex Lewis (former Director of Research, SOAS)
Where: A link to the webinar will be avaliable soon. 
Time: 12.00-13.30

How to participate: please register on Eventbrite 


SOAS and Oxford have been coordinating a series on Research for Development over the past year that has focused on exploring ethical and practical challenges around development-oriented research. In recent times the series has also begun to examine the implications of undertaking research in the age of Covid. In our final session of the series we aim to reflect on the lessons learned throughout the series and hear about some of the practical challenges of establishing and sustaining equitable partnerships from researchers and research managers working in development research.

The session aims to summarise some of the key findings from the series so far and will focus on the following three questions:

  • In what way has the funding landscape changed over the past 5 years and to what end has it dis/en-abled collaborative partnerships between the UK and the Global South? Speakers will provide personal reflections on how they built trust with their partners whilst navigating the practical tensions of applying for funding and undertaking the research e.g. financial, language, and cultural barriers.
  • How can Institutional policies and procedures prevent or promote positive partnerships? Can we build more direct/systematic communication paths between funders and research institutions/researchers in order to overcome unintended consequences of institutional policies?
  • What more could be done to support researchers/institutions to become better partners and utilise these insights/reflections to develop a roadmap for future collective action?

Event structure

12:00 - Introductions

12:05 - Reflections of the series so far, Dr Alex Lewis, Dr Romina Istratii, Dr Maru Mormina

Experience of partnerships building

12:20 - Prof Emma Crewe, SOAS

12:30 - Emily Graham, Due Diligence Manager at Research Services, University of Oxford

12:40 - Prof Jo Boyden, former Director of Young Lives, University of Oxford

12:50 - Reflections on funders/institutional constraints to working in the Global South, Dr Alex Lewis

13:00 - 13:30 Group discussion on what more could be done

Past Events

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Where: A link to the webinar will be available here
Time: 16 July 2020, 13.00 - 14.00 (BST)



While safeguarding is not a new concept to the UK, it is increasingly being focused upon within the context of international development discourse and practice, not least due to the emergence of funding schemes such as the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). Safeguarding refers to provisions for the protection of children and ‘vulnerable’ groups and would appear to reflect historical issues in the UK and other industrialised western societies, thus the terminology may not be readily used within most low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) targeted by these schemes. Despite the context-specific historicity of the concept, it is increasingly becoming a standard criterion for international development good practice, as seen in its deployment by research funding bodies, NGOs and academic institutions. In this session, we would like to apply a more critical lens to the conversations so far by exploring the following questions:

  • What does ‘safeguarding’ pertain to, whose responsibility should be to define ‘vulnerable’ groups or groups ‘at risk’ and what ethical considerations need to be given when transposing these expectations to LMICs in view of communities' socio-cultural, political and historical particularities?
  • How might researchers working internationally protect children and other potentially vulnerable groups that may be susceptible to exploitation or abuse in the contexts they work in and in ways that consider the diverse conditions, regulatory frameworks and cultural standards of the societies they work in? What should be the involvement of regulatory bodies and research partners in these countries in the process of identifying appropriate strategies?
  • How have government responses concerning SARS-Cov-2 (Coronavirus, Covid-19) affected different groups in local societies and what additional considerations might researchers need to take in response to the current crisis and the challenges it poses?



  • Dr Kweku Ackom, Human Development Advisor, DFID UK
  • Dr Leona Vaughn, Derby Fellow (Slavery and Unfree Labour Research Theme), University of Liverpool UK & Research Director & co-author of the UK Collaborative Development Research (UKCDR) Safeguarding in International Research Guidance 
  • Prof Alex Kaniymba, Deputy Director: Academic Centres, University of Namibia, Namibia
  • Khalid Hasan, Governance & Ethics Officer, SOAS UK

Where: Webinar. Watch the panel session and a follow up interview with Prof Sutz

Time: 18 June 2020, 2pm- 3pm BST  



Whilst evidence continues to reveal the inadequacy of the response to Coronavirus across much of Europe and North America (from the lack of PPE, ICU and ventilators, to poor community strategies for contact-tracing), many countries in the Global South have shown remarkable levels of preparedness, no doubt a legacy of past epidemics that have left their mark in the collective memory of the region. However, this outbreak, as every emerging new disease, presents many unknowns and the Global South needs a body of knowledge on various aspects of the pandemic to advice policy makers on best practice in the short as well as in the long term. Our last session asked how development researchers and funders (mostly from the North) could and should respond to the challenges posed by the outbreak in LMIC in ways that pay attention to and reverse ingrained power hierarchies in international development research. In this session, we want to further turn the tables by assembling a panel of Global South researchers to discuss the present successes and challenges in their countries’ response to the outbreak and predict the contours of development research in the post-Covid era. We also explore the panel’s views on how “reverse innovation” can help the North build preparedness by strengthening health and research systems.

 The session will focus on the following questions:

  1. How are research systems adapting and responding to the current pandemic both in terms of scientific input to the policy response and developing practical innovations on the ground? 
  2. How might the R4D agenda change after Covid-19 both at home and abroad? What needs to happen to ensure that local research systems are strong and prepared to respond to future outbreaks?
  3. Is this pandemic an opportunity to improve knowledge transfers between the Global South and the Global North and how can/should we recalibrate the perception of knowledge needs and the expectations around the role and expertise of the South in Global Health? When the tables turn and needs and solutions may have to flow in opposite directions, how can we shed the traditional paradigms and redraw the geographies of knowledge?



Dr. Ifeanyi McWilliams Nsofor (CEO of EpiAFRIC and Director of Policy and Advocacy at Nigeria Health Watch)

Ifeanyi  has degrees from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Nnamdi Azikiwe University Medical School. He is a Senior New Voices Fellow at the Aspen Institute and a Senior Atlantic Fellow for Health Equity at George Washington University. Ifeanyi has worked with international NGOs, local NGOs, the government of Nigeria, the private health sector, a grant making Foundation and consulted for different health organisations. He has conducted research projects in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Ghana, Zambia and Nigeria and was co-lead of the evaluation of performance of the African Union humanitarian support to contain the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Currently Ifeanyi is leading research to document Nigeria’s preparedness and response to COVID-19. Ifeanyi is a Thought Leader in Global Health and has written above 50 opinion pieces for different publishers including, The HillDevex, BioMed Central’s Bugbitten BlogScientific AmericanProject SyndicateInter Press ServiceAfrican ArgumentsAllAfricaThe Globe PostNigeria Health Watch, SciDevNet, and Vanguard Nigeria. All of Ifeanyi’s opinion pieces are available here.  Ifeanyi has been interviewed by Al Jazeera, the BBC, Forbes and a host of other news outlets. Ifeanyi is a TEDx Speaker - his 2018 TEDxOguiRoad Talk is titled, “Without Health, We Have Nothing”. In March 2020, Ifeanyi spoke at “Exploring Media Ecosystems Conference” at the Samberg Center of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Title of his talk was “Forward this to 10 People: The epidemic of health misinformation in Nigeria”.  In March 2020, Ifeanyi was recognized by Onalytica to be among the Coronavirus Top 100 healthcare professionals globally




Prof Judith Sutz (Full Professor of Science, Technology, Innovation and Development and Academic Coordinator of the University Research Council, University of the Republic, Uruguay.

Judith is one of the leading voices in Science and Techmology Studies (STS) in Latin America and is credited for having established the teaching of STS in Uruguay. She is the author of more than 100 publications on topics including science and technology policy, innovation systems in Latin America, social inclusion and inclusive innovation, and innovation systems in small countries. Her work relates to the specific conditions for innovation and knowledge production, and their social uses, in developing countries. Another aspect of her research is university reform and the role of universities in knowledge creation, with a specific focus on the design and implementation of university research policies, with a focus on ways of building bridges between academic research and social concerns, and on promoting transformations of the academic reward system to foster that aim.


Dr Renu Singh (founder and Country Director of Young Lives India, Research to Policy Centre for Young Lives India)

Over twenty-seven years of experience in school management, teacher education, policy analysis and research both in India and abroad. A trained educational psychologist, Montessorian and special educator, she was Head Directress of a school in Dubai, UAE. She conceptualized and set up the Centre for Early Childhood Development and Research, Jamia Millia Islamia as well as School of Rehabilitation Sciences in University of Delhi. She held the position of Director, School of Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Delhi, Director AADI (formerly Spastic Society of Northern India) and has been a member of the Senior Management Team of Save the Children, India. She has provided technical and strategic lead to an EU funded Technical Cooperation Fund to the MHRD entitled ‘Exchange of International Best Practices Leading to Innovation in SSA’, working with seven states (Gujarat, AP, Rajasthan, Orissa, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Jammu & Kashmir) from 2010-2013 and was the Lead Investigator of a USAID Project on Whole School Development from 2003-2007. Has the privilege of working as Governing Body Member of Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) for two terms and has been a member of several Joint Review Missions of Ministry of Human Resource Development as well as Working Group on Early Childhood Care & Education, Ministry of Women & Child Development, responsible for drafting the National Policy of Early Childhood Care and Education, 2013. Her main research interests remain early childhood development, gender and inclusion. She is a prolific writer and has over 100 publications to her credit. 


Dr Matthew Harris (Clinical Senior Lecturer in Public Health, Department of Primary Care and Public Health, Imperial College London, and Honorary Consultant in Public Health Medicine in the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust)

Matthew’s research spans global health, innovation diffusion and primary care and health services research. Through his work on Reverse Innovation, he has served as an Expert Witness at the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health; he has been recognised through the award of a US Commonwealth Fund Harkness Fellowship where he was a Visiting Research Assistant Professor at New York University examining cognitive biases in evidence interpretation in the context of Reverse Innovation; and more recently he was awarded a President’s Excellence grant in Teaching for his work to decolonize the curriculum of the Masters in Public Health.  Matthew has been an invited speaker at a number of international conferences and a guest lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and also at Kings College London. He has published over ninety articles in journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, Nature Medicine, British Medical Journal, BMJ Quality and Safety, International Journal of Integrated Care, Globalization and Health, Qualitative Health Research, Administration and Society, and Public Administration and Development. 


Prior to joining Imperial College London, Matthew worked for several years as a Primary Care physician in Brazil, a WHO Polio Consultant in Ethiopia, an HIV Technical Consultant in Mozambique and a Global Health Advisor to the UK Department of Health. Matthew qualified in Medicine from UCL (1998), obtained his MSc (Public Health in Developing Countries) with Distinction from the LSHTM (2004), and his DPhil (Public Health) from Oxford University in 2009.   He obtained his Certificate of Completion of Specialist Training in Public Health Medicine in 2014.   




Romina Istratii- GCRF Officer and Senior Teaching Fellow, SOAS

Robert Felstead - Head of GCRF Challenges, UKRI
Alex Lewis - Director of Research, SOAS
Kevin Marsh - Professor of Tropical Medicine, Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford
Judy Omumbo - Programme Manager, African Academy of Sciences
Ephrem Tesema - Social Development Adviser, Ethiopia



30 April 2020, 2pm BST



The event will take place online. To register and access the livestream link  please visit:


Watch the recording here



In response to the new realities, we are shifting the attention of the series to explore how institutions and funders in high-come countries (HICs) could be refocused to the specific challenges of low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) as they face this outbreak. 

The session will be guided by the following questions:

  • How has COVID-19 impacted and disrupted development-oriented projects on the ground and the capacity of local partners to be involved and deliver in collaborative projects?
  • What does the crisis reveal about research systems in LMICs and how can these be strengthened at this time to support evidence-based decision making? How could institutions and funders adapt their processes to support this effort with the flexibility required?
  • How can these objectives be pursued with reflexivity of power hierarchies in international development and between nations, ensuring that efforts leverage on egalitarian partnerships and local research leadership? What can HICs learn from LMICs, reversing a historically top-down development paradigm where expertise has been almost by default associated with HICs?





Dr Rachel Hayman,  Research, Learning and Communications Director, INTRAC


Oxford, Faculty of History


12.30 - 13.30 - Brown bag lunch from 12pm 


Watch it here



Two of the key principles for collaborative research promoted by the Rethinking Research Collaborative are to redress evidence hierarchies, and to respect diversity of knowledge and skills. These principles are central to debates around decolonising development and shifting power in development research, policy and practice. In this seminar, Dr Rachel Hayman will share her experiences of multi-directional collaboration amongst academics and practitioners from different parts of the world. These experiences span co-production in publishing, contributions to academic research projects as a non-academic partner, and advocacy with academic institutions and funding bodies on research partnerships. As an academic-turned-practitioner with an agenda, the seminar will be as interactive as possible and will conclude with discussion around what we can do to act on these principles.




Dr Rachel Hayman is Director of Research, Communications and Learning at INTRAC, a not-for-profit organisation based in Oxford that supports the strengthening of civil society around the world. She has a doctorate in African Studies from the University of Edinburgh where she also taught politics and international development between 2006 and 2011. Rachel’s areas of expertise span civil society in international development, aid politics, aid effectiveness, governance, and participatory methodologies. She has a strong interest in the interface between academic research and development practice, and actively promotes collaboration in research initiatives as well as more creative use of knowledge and evidence in policy and practice. She is active in the Rethinking Research Collaborative as well as professional research associations and practitioner researcher networks. Select publications include the co-produced book ‘Negotiating Knowledge: Evidence and experience in development NGOs’ (2016); ‘International NGOs and aid withdrawal: experiences from a practitioner perspective’, Voluntas (2017, with Sarah Lewis); ‘Unpacking civil society sustainability: looking back, broader, deeper, forward’, Development in Practice (Special Issue), 26(5), 2016.

Speaker:  Dr Romina Istratii and Dr Andrea Cornwall (SOAS) 
At SOAS: Paul Webley Wing (Senate House) Room S208
At Oxford: Skills Lab, Manor Road Building
When: 30 January 2020, 12.30-13.30 (lunch from 12)
Preliminary reading (optional): Gender Science and Technology Development literature review for the University of Edinburgh's Working Group on Integrating Gender in Global Challenges Research Fund Applications

Speaker: Dr Maru Mormina, Senior Researcher and Ethics Advisor, Ethox Centre, University of Oxford
Where: Seminar Room G, Manor Road Building, Manor Rd, Oxford OX1 3UQ
When: 14 November 2019, 12.30 - 13.30 - Lunch from 12pm.

Creating a web of conversations

We recognise that universities in the UK and internationally are faced with similar questions and have in-house specialists and researchers who are concerned about issues around international development practice. Through this initiative we hope to link conversations happening across contexts to achieve better learning and to develop good practice together. 


The University of Oxford and SOAS have teamed up to start the series and we are hoping you will join us. All you need to do is: 

  • Find a suitable room at your organisation capable of receiving the webcast. 

  • Identify a facilitator who is knowledgeable about the topic

  • Invite your colleagues to join you to listen in, tweet, discuss and feedback. 

To explain the concept further, for discussions happening at Oxford, SOAS will join from its London venue with its in-house facilitators. The two sites will be connected via webcast and a live tweet, enabling SOAS to feed questions to the Oxford presenter(s). Conversely, when events take place at SOAS, Oxford will join via livestream from its venue with a local facilitator leading the conversation in-house and will feed questions to the SOAS presenter. After the webcast (approximately 30-40 minutes), each venue will continue their own discussion for another 20-30 minutes.  Facilitators in each setting will communicate with each other after the event to share and summarise lessons from the day, later to be shared through our websites. 


We encourage other universities to help us expand the circle of learning by joining the webcast and/or organising their own events to which we can link via webcast. We envision this as an environmentally friendly, practical and interactive way to explore important issues in development research and build capacity together. 


You do not need to register if you are joining us via livestream but if you intend to join us at one of our Oxford-led events, please book here.






Contact us


Romina Istratii (
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  • Our next event (16 July) will be available here

  • Visit the SOAS events page

Watch past events