Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Devesh Kapur on social science research about India in USA

In the US, there is a rise of social science research about India – but it has little policy impact
When asked how many of these expensive randomised control trials had moved the policy needle in India, Arvind Subramanian, chief economic advisor to the Indian government (who announced in June that he would be stepping down from the post), was hard pressed to find a single one that had helped him address the dozens of pressing policy questions that came across his table. By contrast, the compiling of just some key facts on learning outcomes by the non-governmental organisation Pratham has had a big impact on policy discussions in education, because it is backed by a degree of specific knowledge and engagement that is more credible and persuasive. One could question whether “relevance” or “timeliness” are a valid standard for good research – yes they are, when those are precisely the reasons given to funders for these projects.
One should acknowledge the wide range of social science type work in US business schools, demography, and even development economics that has been adding to a body of knowledge about India. Nonetheless, a not inconsiderable number of research articles in top journals elide facts or simply interpret them selectively, relying on reviewers’ ignorance about India. That would normally not matter, but because they are published in prestigious journals, they effectively create “new facts” and become the gatekeepers of knowledge in that area.”

No comments: