The Research Papers in Economics (RePEc) database has over 46,000 researchers registered. Each month they send out rankings based on downloads, citations, and other metrics. Their ranking of economists based on publications in the last 10 years is topped by some of the best known names in economics (the top 5 are Acemoglu, Shleifer, Heckman, Barro and Rogoff). But looking through their top 100 (as of January 2016), I found 8 of the top 100 researchers are based in developing countries (taking World Bank client countries as “developing countries” for this purpose). Since I was only familiar with the work of one of these eight individuals, I thought it might be of interest to note some of this work going on outside of the usual top schools. I contacted the authors to ask them also what idea or work they were most proud of, or would most like to draw policy attention to.
- 16: Rafal Weron at the Politechnika Wrocławska, Wrocław, Poland. He works on financial econometrics and electricity pricing, and his most downloaded item is Matlab code for calculating the Hurst exponent. He would like to draw attention to his work in the journal Computational Statistics which develops a novel method of computing prediction intervals - Quantile Regression Averaging (QRA) - which involves applying quantile regression to a pool of point forecasts of individual (i.e., not combined) forecasting models – he notes the top two teams in the Global Energy Forecasting Competition in 2014 used variants of his method.
- 17: Emad Abd Elmessih Shehata at the Agricultural Research Center in Giza, Egypt. He works on a variety of topics around Egyptian agriculture and has written over 180 Stata commands for download, with his most downloaded item Stata code for doing structural change regressions and Chow tests.
- 23. Rangan Gupta at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. He works on monetary policy theory and time series econometrics, and his most downloaded item is a very topical one on measuring and forecasting oil price volatility. The paper he would most like to draw attention to is a paper he published in the Journal of Banking and Finance which shows theoretically and empirically how inflation affects the amount of tax evasion.
- 47: Simplice Anutechia Asongu at the African Governance and Development Institute in Cameroun. He has written on a wide variety of development topics concerning Africa, with his most downloaded paper one revisiting the Ashraf-Galor work on whether poverty is linked to genetic diversity in Africa. The paper he would like to highlight is a paper published in Empirical Economics on predicting the Arab Spring. Here he introduces the idea of a reverse Solow-Swan process, based on catch-up on negative signals.
- 56: Muhammad Shahbaz at the Comsats Insitute of Information Technology, in Lahore, Pakistan. He works on energy topics in developing countries, and his most downloaded work is panel data analysis of the links between oil consumption, tourism, political instability and growth in the MENA region.
- 61: Francisco Venegas-Martínez at the Instituto Politécnico Nacional, in Mexico. He works on macro and financial market topics, and his most downloaded work is a paper examining consumer decisions in a finite horizon model with heterogeneous subjective discount rates and risk aversion coefficients.
- 70: Heng-Fu Zou at the China Economics and Management Academy, Beijing, China. He works on macro topics including monetary and fiscal policy in China, and his most downloaded work is a paper arguing that income inequality is not harmful for growth.
- 89: Shang-Jin Wei at Tsinghua University, Beijing, China. He works on trade and international finance, and his most downloaded work is a paper on looking at value-added and double-counting in export data.
I also asked these scholars what the greatest challenges they faced in doing research in their countries were. Here were the responses I received back:
- From Rafal: “No substantial challenge anymore, given today's means of communication (email, skype, www) and increases in research funding in Poland over the last couple of years.”
- From Rangan “The biggest challenge has been to publish in high-ranked journals using South African data. The Editors have the usual comment that South African data would not interest their audience or the data is not reliable. Interestingly, I have published much lesser work in high-ranked journals using US data. It has taken me 10 years to convince the editors that good work also comes out of South Africa.”
- From Simplice “Doing good economic research requires impartiality and independence of thought. When a researcher takes unbiased and objective positions that are not consistent with policies of the Washington Consensus, it comes at a great price: (i) he/she is never shortlisted for jobs and (ii) hardly gets any funding. For the past six years I have self-funded my research while living below the poverty line. I have applied for hundreds of jobs (including job advertisements of the World Bank) and never shortlisted. In the light of the above, the greatest challenge in doing good economic research in my country in particular (and developing countries in general) is the constraint of blindly aligning with mainstream thinking and the Washington consensus. There are taboo subjects that when a researcher engages he/she is black-listed in many circles (including multilateral institutions of development), notably: the false economics of preconditions and illicit capital flight as a fundamental cause of Africa’s poverty tragedy.”