This document is written for United States Agency for International Development (USAID) staff and implementing partners. The purpose of this document is to consolidate, in one convenient reference, operational policies of particular relevance to the design and management of research activities. Many of these policies exist in the Automated Directives System (ADS). While avoiding restating these policies, this document references them and, where necessary, provides further guidance on matters that frequently arise in the conduct of research. This document also fills important operational policy gaps that are not covered in the ADS, especially on subjects such as scientific peer review, quality standards for research plans and reports, open data, and scientific publication. 

Research allows USAID to develop, test, refine and evaluate the acceptability and cost-effectiveness of new and improved products, tools, approaches and interventions that focus on the key concerns of developing countries. Research also helps inform policy, strategic direction of programs, and overcome barriers to implementation in developing country settings. USAID’s research investments strengthen the evidence-base for development and aim to:

  • Respond to host-country needs and priorities;
  • Enable scientific discovery and technological innovation to improve the well-being of people and nations by offering sustainable solutions to key development challenges;
  • Understand the various social, cultural and contextual factors that influence the use of research results;
  • Develop innovative strategies and approaches to encourage technology transfer, adoption, incorporation of research results into practice, and scale up;
  • Foster host-country capacity to conduct research and practice evidence-based policy making;
  • Support the introduction of evidence-based research into programs;
  • Promote open access to research results; and
  • Harness research and science to meet the development needs of men and women, girls and boys, as well as vulnerable groups such as persons with disabilities, indigenous people, ethnic minorities, and communities affected by conflict and extreme poverty.

USAID supports research intended to discover and develop solutions to specific development challenges. The term research (as defined by the Office of Management and Budget -OMB) refers to systematic and creative activities undertaken to increase the knowledge base, including understanding of humankind, culture, environment, and society, and the application of this knowledge base to devise new interventions. Being hypothesis-driven, testable, and independently replicable are typical qualities of the research process.


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