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Global synthesis of Searchlight reports using knowledge discovery and visualization

Sucharita Gopal (Based at Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)


ISSN: 1463-6689

Article publication date: 2 November 2012




The purpose of this paper is to synthesize trends, issues, and policies related to development using a database of Searchlight reports. The paper seeks to utilize three techniques – conceptual tree visualizations to uncover patterns impacting regional development; network analysis to compare and contrast urbanization in South Asia and Southern Africa; and sentiment analysis to assess various sectors of development that elicit positive and negative reactions.


The paper presents a synthesis based on a unique database that was developed using a novel scoring scheme to quantify the development concepts presented in 312 Searchlight articles in a period between September 2009 and December 2010.


Primary and secondary concepts define an ontology that can be visualized to provide an overall synthesis of a subset of the Searchlight database. Social issues were significant in Asia, climate change narrative in Africa, and governance in Latin America. In terms of sentiments, negative sentiments tended to overshadow optimism. However, technology and knowledge was seen as a panacea along with social entrepreneurship in some regions of Asia. There is also a realization that newer issues related to climate change, resource and energy depletion, food insecurity and the current financial crisis will exacerbate present difficult conditions.

Practical implications

The paper suggests that qualitative data presented in various articles could be synthesized and visualized using data mining techniques. This methodology provides a comprehensive way to capture knowledge and insights provided by development experts to coherently share and discuss the multitude of common global challenges of the twenty‐first century.


The visualizations and data mining techniques are developed for this study context. The approach can add value by tracking and monitoring current and emerging trends relevant to the Foundation's strategic framework, operational initiatives, and areas of work. Parts of this paper have been presented in a previous publication (see‐library/connecting‐the‐dots/).



Gopal, S. (2012), "Global synthesis of Searchlight reports using knowledge discovery and visualization", Foresight, Vol. 14 No. 6, pp. 468-488.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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