Evidencing the far-reaching impacts of international development research: New UKCDR case study booklet expands understandings of primary and secondary benefits through REF2021 analysis

8 April, 2024

Publication announcement

UKCDR’s new case study booklet presents seven case studies that demonstrate clear primary benefits within Low- and Middle-Income Country (LMIC) contexts and, additionally, contribute to positive effects in the UK and/or globally. 

The UK Collaborative on Development Research (UKCDR) has today published a booklet of seven case studies. This booklet, ‘Evidencing the far-reaching benefits of international development research: A selection of REF2021 case studies’, complements and expands on UKCDR’s 2023 report on how UK-funded international development research projects achieve real-life impact. From analysing 891 research case studies submitted to the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF2021), UKCDR has found that international development research can achieve impact in both LMICs (primary benefits) and in the UK and/or around the world (secondary benefits). This booklet explains how these benefits unfold and to what effect. 

This work was led by Andrea Padilla and Farida Ben-Younis, and involved the whole UKCDR team, dedicated as ever to making research work for global development.  

A child in Malawi sits on the classroom floor and learns through an electronic tablet.
A child in Malawi receives learning support through educational app, onecourse

The seven case studies featured in this booklet were selected to ensure diversity across topics and geographical regions, alongside a mix of Official Development Assistance (ODA) and non-ODA funded research. Each case study includes a summary of the research project, information on its primary and secondary benefits, an analysis of how secondary benefits unfolded, and a project funding timeline. 

UKCDR classifies primary benefits as those that promote economic development and welfare of communities in ODA-eligible countries. Recognising that there is no standard definition for secondary benefits in the context of international development research, UKCDR identifies secondary benefits as those that incur positive impact across locations and audiences beyond the main recipient country or countries. In this booklet, UKCDR presents a taxonomy of four types of secondary benefits. These include:  

  • research capacity and knowledge generation;  
  • policies and practices;  
  • economic and commercial: and 
  • relationships and reputation. 

The overall aim of international development research is to address global challenges, in alignment with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. In a volatile world beset with complex global challenges, ranging from climate change to armed conflict, it is critical that the role of international development research in creating solutions is understood and championed. The UK government’s recent White Paper on International Development states that, to end extreme poverty and tackle climate change and biodiversity loss, all countries need to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth. This requires a collective global mobilisation of scientific expertise, technology, and innovation. This case study booklet demonstrates how this mobilisation, when harnessed effectively, can achieve positive outcomes. From mate tea production in Latin America to speech and language therapy in Africa and Asia, the UK’s commitment to funding international development research is critical to building a better future for all. 

Access the case study booklet 

Read the booklet, Evidencing the wide-reaching benefits of international development research: A selection of REF 2021 case studies’ 

Notes to editors

UKCDR is a dedicated team of experts working to amplify the impact and value of UK’s research investment to address global challenges through mapping, improving best practices, coherence and joint action. We support government and research funders working in international development. Our core contributing members include: 

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