Report: The consequences of development research funding cuts

April 16, 2024

Report launch: Development research in Sweden today.

Photo: Unsplash / Grant Ritchie

Updated 23 April 2024.


The report Development research in Sweden today: funding and ways forward summarises the findings of a survey carried out by the Swedish Development Research Network (SweDev), exploring reactions to the Swedish government’s funding cuts announced in December 2022 and June 2023 and affecting U-Forsk grants from the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) and research collaboration aid funded through Sida. This summary report aims to capture the consequences caused by these cuts, as reported by development researchers, practitioners and policy makers in Sweden.

The survey was carried out digitally during February-March 2024. In total, 199 people (185 development researchers or those working in academia, and 14 people working with development practice or policy in Sweden) responded to the survey.

Main findings

  • 48% of the respondents in research/academia have adjusted their research in response to the funding cuts. Respondents are reportedly shifting their research focus to topics more likely to attract funding and more relevant to the Global North. Of those reporting changes to their research themes, multiple respondent report changes such as less focus on ‘poverty’, ‘inequality’, ‘health and empowering women’, ‘job creation’, ‘rural development and knowledge transfer’, ‘circular sanitation’, ‘water access’ etc. Themes that are given more priority now are topics such as ‘climate change’, ‘justice’, ‘AI’ and topics more relevant to Swedish context e.g. migration. Geographically, more researchers are now focusing on Europe or countries in the Global North and Sweden.
  • About two-thirds of respondents (65%) say their work was either discontinued or significantly altered as a result of the funding cuts. Long-term projects, collaborative research with colleagues in other countries, and networks that have been built up over time are particularly impacted.
  • 93% of respondents believe that the impacts of the cuts for the Global South are negative – both in the short and long term. Many highlight the negative consequences for Sweden’s position and reputation as a research partner and funder in global sustainable development. Negative consequences are also noted for aid effectiveness.
  • Still, 86% of the respondents have been able to sustain contacts with research partners in developing countries, while only 14% of respondents report that relations have not been maintained. However, 67% say that their incentives to include researchers from the Global South were negatively affected and 38% reported that their research teams’ structure has changed because of the funding cuts. Multiple respondents however highlight hat they still have on-going project grants so it may be too early to draw overall conclusions on this.
  • Of the respondents working in development policy and practice, 55% say that their work has been negatively affected by the cuts in funding. Examples reported include higher levels of uncertainty, tougher prioritization, and cancellation of bilateral programmes.