musings on travel, international living, development aid, politics, turkey (the country more than the meat) and anything else that comes to mind...

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Is there an academic/policy divide in development?

Alas, all good things - even 3 month round-the-world extravaganzas - must eventually come to an end. To steal probably the most commonly used Gen. Next answer to the 'how was the trip' question... it was awesome!

But more on that later, including lessons learned (any development professional worth his/her salt includes these) and tips for other aspiring global vagabonds.

For now, it's back to the grindstone. A pastel-colored, boat shoe- and trendy sunglasses-wearing grindstone (I am in Cambridge Mass after all), but a grindstone nonetheless.

There's an amazing amount of international development ideas floating around this place and I can't wait to jump right into the deep end.

The main question I have (and hope to learn more about in the aforementioned deep end) is whether those ideas and solutions are making their way outside of the academic community? Are policy makers in Washington, London, Geneva, New York and beyond accessing the information? Are they making changes/upgrades base on the evidence?

Several organizations (including, among others, MIT's J-PAL network and IPA) are out in front of this crusade but are the right incentives there for professors to dedicate time, effort and resources to bridging the (real or perceived) gap? Several fascinating books address global poverty (I'm finally reading Poor Economics by Duflo/Banerjee after having just read Why Nations Fail by Robinson and fellow Ameriturk Acemoglu - both highly recommended) and have elevated their authors to rock star status in the economics/development realm... but what are the distinct policy implications/ramifications? Is it all just talk if things don't change in a policy world full of NGOs with differing agendas, politicians with constituencies and nobody with a whole lot of spare time to read 100+ page research papers/books?

Put another way... in an academic world intensely focused on publishing valuable research that could improve the efficiency/effectiveness with which your and my money combats global poverty, are professors/researchers properly incentivized to appropriately share their knowledge in ways that are truly accessible to policy makers?

I hope so. But I also have my doubts. Maybe I can help?