Another source of research dries

I am not feeling good after reading this Business Standard piece. TCA Srinivasan says he will not be writing – Okonomos anymore. Okonomos a weekly column written every Friday has been the only of its kind.

It provides a glimpse of some exciting research paper mostly in field of economics. I woke up to this column pretty late (in 2006) but have enjoyed it ever since. After TCA, it is only Niranjan Rajadhyaksha’s pieceswhere one gets to read about some research. I didn’t cover it much in this blog but I realised quite a few papers TCA pointed out, I had mentioned them in my blog already. This made me feel confident that I am perhaps reading right things.

I always felt we lack way behind in research but his column confirmed my apprehensions. He raises it again here:

When, back in 1998, I had mooted the idea of writing a weekly commentary on research in economics….The aim, originally, was to write only about Indian research. But after only a few weeks I ran into a problem: There just wasn’t enough of high quality research going on. The theoretical stuff from places like the Indian Statistical Institute and the Delhi School of Economics was good, no doubt, but hardly the sort of thing one could write about in a newspaper.

The empirical stuff was limited by the fact that there just wasn’t enough data around. The exception was the RBI and its publication, Occasional Papers. But that was mainly because the staff had the data. Sadly, it has become too occasional now. The website link was last updated in February and the last volume is dated Monsoon 2007.

I should also mention that of the nearly 600 Okos I wrote, I received less than 10 submissions from Indian economists. I finally had to conclude that the people for whom it was originally meant — economists — were not interested in reading about what other economists were saying. I would be remiss, though, if I did not mention that non-economists did find it useful.

 He drops some bombs as well:

One of the most striking things was the frequent assertion by the economists I met was that they didn’t read the business papers. This strange approach doesn’t seem to have changed much. Just two days ago, I met a university professor who said the same thing. I wondered about the point of the research they did. If, like their counterparts in the US and the rest of the west, they didn’t address live problems, what did they do then? And why?

That was not all. I also discovered how easy it was for very powerful interests, both vested and wannabes, to use naive but competent economists to further their cause. The whole “reform the financial sector now, at once, now, now now” campaign then fell into proper perspective.

So, they don;t even read business papers. There is a simple answer to his question. Well one only needs to go to the working papers of various universities and wonder how the papers help.

So how did the column survive?

It was in 2001, I think, that I discovered the NBER site.

I don’t need to say anything more as no words describe NBER.

I don;t know about others but I would surely miss this column which was a unique initiative. Good thing is it is going to continue.

I understand the column will continue, which is great news. Now I can sit back and let someone else bring me up-to-date on what’s going on in the confused world of economists. Better do a good job of it, lads.

Yeah, the successors have pretty high standards to follow.

One Response to “Another source of research dries”

  1. KoolRaaga Says:

    Thanks for Mentioning this.

    It certainly is a column which will be missed.

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