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Doing Research in Bolivia

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Name of the Asset | Doing Research in Bolivia: bridging the research gap and improving development policies

Type of Asset | Research report
Date | December 2020



In a global knowledge economy and in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals, there is a growing recognition among governments and international organizations of the importance of mobilizing local research as part of wider strategies for socioeconomic development. However, the current state of research systems in developing countries is a cause of concern, since it often does not enable local researchers to carry out useful quality research that can feed into public debate and policy discourse. In this context, an in-depth analysis of research systems is key to understanding how to bridge the research-policy gap and raise the profile of research that is being generated.

The social science research system in Bolivia involves only a few institutions that have an interest in creating in-depth empirical evidence. Research dissemination and research–policy linkages are also limited, helping to create an environment that lacks an appreciation of evidence-based knowledge generated within and for society. Despite the significant effort of several institutions, Bolivia continues to lag behind other countries in the region in terms of research practices. As the country moves rapidly toward a more open and transparent political environment, new public policies must be imagined and designed. The challenge is to find ways to make use of available and emerging research. As such, there is an urgent need to assess the social science research system in Bolivia, to identify the opportunities and structural barriers to doing research, and highlight pathways for action.

The Doing Research Assessment (DRA) in Bolivia was implemented by the Center for the Studies of Social and Economic Realities (CERES). It constitutes the first systematic analysis toward providing comprehensive and comparable information on local research in the country, in an effort to better understand current research practices and policies.

One of the main findings of this assessment is the lack of collaboration and inter-institutional commitment, which inhibits the production of more relevant research. While the majority of actors agree that regulatory policy is an essential component of the institutional architecture of the country, it is evident that institutions in Bolivia face enormous difficulties in developing an efficient and well-articulated research system given the legal restrictions on their operations – particularly the law on legal personality, which limits the capacity of NGOs to operate freely, independently and effectively. Based on their analysis, one of the recommendations for the short term is to promote the use of locally-grounded social science research as a key input to sustainable development planning by supporting the establishment of a regulatory framework for civil society organizations, free of excessive regulation and appropriate to the local context.

It is evident that support for scientific research in Bolivia has decreased in recent years. The support that has been provided through the redistribution of revenues from the tax on hydrocarbons (IDH) has not been sufficient to strengthen scientific research in the various fields related to the social sciences. Furthermore, social science researchers do not engage in areas prioritized by policymakers, nor are they part of interdisciplinary teams.

The institutional strengthening of the social science research ecosystem will be critical for promoting the long-term development of the Bolivian research system. The need for a common agenda is a must, as well as strategic partnerships/coalitions to influence policymaking.


  • Luis Pablo Cuba, Senior Coordinator
  • Sharim Ribera, Coordinator
  • Roberto Laserna
  • Manuel Gómez

In collaboration with:

  • Pedro Badran
  • Gilda Jauregui
  • Andrés Cuba
  • Nelson Gironas
  • Humberto Moya
  • Santiago Laserna

Country and/or Region | Bolivia
Name of the Program | GDN’s Doing Research for Measuring the Production, Diffusion, and Use of Social Science Research

Funder(s) | The current phase of the Doing Research program is being funded by GDN’s core funds. The Doing Research pilot phase was generously supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Agence Française de Développement, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development, and Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation for US$785,000 from 2014-2016.

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