Call for papers “Development in Practice – special issue: Pracademics as change agents”

11 Sep 2023

This special issue of Development in Practice aims to explore the roles and experiences of pracademics, highlighting their unique perspectives and contributions in bridging theory and practice for better development outcomes, as well as the professional and ethical challenges that they face.

This special issue turns the spotlight on pracademics, an under-appreciated and under-investigated group of individuals who play a crucial role in transforming academic knowledge into effective development practice. Scholarship on pracademia originated in public administration and public policy (Posner 2009). However, there is still little research on the phenomenon in development studies, which is odd given the preponderance of current and former practitioners in the field, and the popularity of applied research and participatory methodologies. This special issue aims to fill that gap, in line with Development in Practice’s broad commitment to facilitate collaborations and engagement within and beyond academia. It aims to deepen understanding of the ways that pracademics can drive positive social change, and ways in which they can be supported to do so.

The definition of pracademics in development studies and development work is: individuals with academic appointments who actively engage in development processes as change agents. Preliminary research by the special issue’s guest editors has provided insights into the range of valuable and value-driven activity that pracademics do, including acting as a relational ‘broker’ between research and development stakeholders, providing solution-focussed advice to practitioners and policymakers, providing an evidence base for decision-making and project management, and communicating knowledge to the general public. However, the research has also indicated that many self-identified pracademics across several countries report that they face similar obstacles, despite their differing institutional environments and life journeys. Challenges include prejudicial attitudes from their peers about the quality of their work, the pressure of juggling competing demands and deadlines, lack of recognition for their contributions, and dilemmas about career prospects. The rich insights provided by this data raise several research questions, which we invite potential contributors to the special issue to consider:

a) What are the attributes of individuals who self-identify as pracademics, and how do they perceive their role in academia and practice?
b) What is the role of the pracademic in bridging the gap between theory and practice?
c) What are the institutional conditions that best enable pracademics to achieve ‘real world’ beneficial impact?
d) What types of career paths do pracademics follow, and what are the benefits and ‘costs’ of pursuing pracademia in terms of career development inside and outside the academy?
e) How can pracademia be practised in an ethical and non-extractive way, particularly in the context of hierarchical relationships? (North-South, tenured-precarious, etc)

Submission are invited that address any of these questions, or different questions on the same broad theme. In-depth case studies of impact are especially encouraged, as are viewpoints and practice notes. Submissions from pracademics located in the global South are especially welcomed.

Deadlines: To be considered for inclusion, please send an abstract of 200 words to by Friday 29 September 2023. They will aim to confirm whether you submission has been accepted within ten working days. Once accepted, the deadline for submission of the full manuscript will be Wednesday 31 January 2024. Papers will be subject to double-masked peer review, as per the editorial guidelines of Development in Practice.

Guest editors: Angela Crack (University of Portsmouth, UK), Faina Diola (University of the Philippines), Willem Elbers (Radboud University, Netherlands), Alan Fowler (University of Witwatersrand Business School, South Africa) and Inés Pousadela (Universidad ORT, Uruguay)

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