This evaluation of Finnish development research was commissioned by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland (MFA), which supports (a) research on the situation of developing countries; (b) research on the international aid system; (c) research cooperation with individuals and institutions in developing countries; and (d) research-as-aid, including capacity building and investments in developing country or international research institutions.

The MFA distributes about half of the development research budget through project grants to Finnish researchers and the balance as budget support to international research institutions. In Finland most of the support is administered by the Academy of Finland; the MFA reserves some funds for commissioned research directed by the MFA. A previous evaluation characterised Academy projects as too small and fragmented; this has changed to larger and longer-lasting projects. The Academy applies standard quality assurance procedures to all projects; the commissioned research is also of good academic quality, but largely fails to provide operational advice. The main problems identified concern commissioned research and research cooperation. It is recommended that commissioned research be replaced by formative process research, to make the connection between research, planning, implementation and monitoring of development interventions more explicit. Furthermore, all projects supported should be required to produce short policy briefs. The main challenge identified, however, concerns research cooperation. There is general policy agreement about its importance but the support structures put in place for that purpose are inadequate. The proper policy implications must be drawn and support for research cooperation be given proper institutional expression, along the lines of other Nordic countries.