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Research Academy

The Research Academy identifies and shares the findings of the best new policy-relevant research from across the World Bank Group. The 2014 Academy was sponsored jointly by the Research Director, Asli Demirguc-Kunt, and the Global Practices Chief Economist, Jeffrey Lewis.

What criteria does the Research Academy use to select winning papers

Staff and consultants from across the World Bank Group are welcome to submit their work to the Academy at Papers submitted to the Academy can cover any topic under the wide umbrella of development economics. All papers should meet the following criteria:

  • The paper has highly relevant policy conclusions for World Bank Group clients;
  • The paper is a self-contained analysis (i.e., 30-70 pages in length) that makes a significant contribution to our understanding of development;
  • The paper may focus on specific regions, but the conclusions of the paper should be of interest to staff from across the Bank.
  • The paper should be of recent vintage, i.e., published as a working paper or similar within the last 12 months.

Previous Academies

The Best New Research from across the Bank: Winners of the 2014 Research Academy

Three papers were selected from over 60 submissions from across the World Bank Group based on technical quality, originality, and operational relevance. They represent the very best new research from across the institution, and combine a high degree of technical rigor along with a commitment to identifying relevant policy advice for World Bank clients.

Submissions were reviewed by a committee of World Bank Group operational and research staff. More than 60 submissions were received in this round and reviewed by a committee of World Bank Group operational and research staff. Submissions were judged based on a combination of their technical quality; originality; and operational relevance. In this round, particular consideration was given to papers that made a significant contribution to our understanding of one or more of the five following themes: (1) Science of Delivery: Service Delivery and Aid Effectiveness; (2) Job Creation, Competitiveness, and Productivity; (3) Risk Management and Vulnerability; (4) Inclusion and Shared Prosperity; (5) International Cooperation and Global Public Goods.

Special thanks go to all the World Bank staff who gave their time to help select the winning papers: Abebe Adugna (GMFDR), Paulo Bastos (DECRG), Toan Do (DECRG), Roberto Fattal Jaef (DECRG), Joel Hellman (GGODR), Eeshani Kandpal (DECRG), Martin Kanz (DECRG), Ha Nguyen (DECRG), William Rex (GWADR), Halsey Rogers (GEDDR), Claudia Ruiz (DECRG), and Damien de Walque (DECRG).

Winning Papers

All in the Family: State Capture in Tunisia
Bob Rijkers (Economist, Development Research Group)
Caroline Freund (Senior Fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics)
Antonio Nucifora (Lead Economist, Macroeconomics and Fiscal Management Global Practice)

This paper examines the relationship between regulation and the business interests of President Ben Ali and his family, using firm-level data from Tunisia for 1994-2010. Data on investment regulations are merged with balance sheet and firm-level census data in which 220 firms owned by the Ben Ali family are identified. These connected firms outperform their competitors in terms of employment, output, market share, profits, and growth and sectors in which they are active are disproportionately subject to authorization requirements and restriction on foreign direct investment. Consistent with theories of capture, performance differences between connected firms and their peers are significantly larger in highly regulated sectors. In addition, the introduction of new foreign direct investment restrictions and authorization requirements in narrowly defined five-digit sectors is correlated with the presence of connected firms and with their startup, suggesting that regulation is endogenous to state capture. The evidence implies that Tunisia's industrial policy was used as a vehicle for rent creation for the president and his family.
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Highway to Success: The Impact of the Golden Quadrilateral Project for the Location and Performance of Indian Manufacturing
Ejaz Ghani (Lead Economist, Macroeconomics and Fiscal Management Global Practice)
Arti Grover Goswami (Economist, Social, Urban, Rural, and Resilience Global Practice)
William R. Kerr (Professor, Harvard Business School)

We investigate the impact of transportation infrastructure on the organization and efficiency of manufacturing activity. The Golden Quadrangle (GQ) project upgraded a central highway network in India. Manufacturing activity grew disproportionately along the network. These findings hold in straight-line IV frameworks and are not present on a second highway that was planned to be upgraded at the same time as GQ but subsequently delayed. Both entrants and incumbents facilitated the output growth, with scaling among entrants being important. The upgrades facilitated better industrial sorting along the network and improved the allocative effiiciency of industries initially positioned on GQ.
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Progress toward the Health MDGs: Are the Poor Being Left Behind?
Adam Wagstaff (Research Manager, Development Research Group)
Caryn Bredenkamp (Senior Economist, Health, Nutrition, and Population Global Practice)
Leander Buisman (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

This paper looks at differential progress on the health Millennium Development Goals between the poor and better-off within countries. The findings are based on original analysis of 235 Demographic and Health Surveys and Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys, spanning 64 developing countries over the period 1990-2011. Five health status indicators and seven intervention indicators are tracked for all the health Millennium Development Goals. In most countries, the poorest 40 percent have made faster progress than the richest 60 percent. On average, relative inequality in the Millennium Development Goal indicators has been falling. However, the opposite is true in a sizable minority of countries, especially on child health status indicators (40-50 percent in the cases of child malnutrition and mortality), and on some intervention indicators (almost 40 percent in the case of immunizations). Absolute inequality has been rising in a larger fraction of countries and in around one-quarter of countries, the poorest 40 percent have been slipping backward in absolute terms. Despite reductions in most countries, relative inequalities in the Millennium Development Goal health indicators are still appreciable, with the poor facing higher risks of malnutrition and death in childhood and lower odds of receiving key health interventions.
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Research Academy 2014: Call for Papers

May 1, 2014 - The Research Department and the Office of the Chief Economist of the Global Practices invite World Bank Group staff and consultants to submit papers to the second round of the Research Academy on these five themes: 

  • Science of Delivery: Service Delivery and Aid Effectiveness 
  • Job Creation, Competitiveness, and Productivity 
  • Risk Management and Vulnerability 
  • Inclusion and Shared Prosperity 
  • International Cooperation and Global Public Goods

Selection Process

The Research Director, Asli Demirgüç-Kunt, and Global Practices Chief Economist, Jeff Lewis, convene a committee of rotating experts selected from across the World Bank Group based on the topic of submissions. The papers are reviewed in two rounds based on the following criteria: (1) technical quality; (2) originality; and (3) operational relevance. In the first round, each paper is rated by two members of the committee, and the papers with the highest average rating proceed to the second round. In the second round, each paper is rated by all members of the committee, and the winners are selected.

Deadline: June 9, 2014.

Research Academy 2013

WASHINGTON, Sep. 25, 2013 – Asli Demirgüç-Kunt, research director for the World Bank, discusses the results of the first round of the Research Academy, a new initiative to identify the best policy-relevant research from across the World Bank Group.

Winners of the First Round of the Research Academy 

Harnessing Emotional Connections to Improve Financial Decisions: Evaluating the Impact of Financial Education in Mainstream Media
Bilal Zia, Senior Economist (Development Research Group, Finance & Private Sector Development Team) and Gunhild Berg, Financial Sector Specialist, (Africa Region, Financial and Private Sector Development Network)

Can a soap opera be an effective instrument to deliver financial literacy messages and improve financial behavior? Find out what one joint research and operational World Bank team discovered while working with the South African soap opera "Scandal."
Audio Interview

Report Cards: The Impact of Providing School and Child Test Scores on Educational Markets
Jishnu Das, Senior Economist (Development Research Group, Human Development Team), in collaboration with Tahir Andrabi (Pomona College) and Asim Ijaz Khwaja (Harvard University, BREAD, and NBER)

Can a simple, relatively low-cost intervention like a report card on school and child performance boost educational outcomes? A randomized control trial in Pakistani villages provides reasons for optimism.
Audio Interview

Spillovers from Conditional Cash Transfers: Bolsa Familia and Crime in Urban Brazil
Laura Chioda, Lead Economist (Latin America and Caribbean Region Chief Economist's Office), in collaboration with João M. P. De Mello (Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro) and Rodrigo R. Soares (Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro and IZA)

Brazil's Bolsa Familia is the largest conditional cash transfer (CCT) program in the world, covering over 11 million families. Evidence suggests that it has had a positive impact on educational outcomes and extreme poverty, but might it also have a an impact on the incidence of crime?

Demand versus Returns? Pro-Poor Targeting of Business Grants and Vocational Skills Training
Renos Vakis, Lead Economist (Latin America and Caribbean Region, Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network) and Patrick Premand, Economist (Africa, Human Development Network), in collaboration with Karen Macours (Paris School of Economics)

What does it take to increase the productive capacities of the poor? A team of World Bank staff examines the results of an unusual experiment in Nicaragua that randomly provided business grants and vocational training to households in rural communities and finds that conventional wisdom on targeting these types of programs may need a rethink.
Audio Interview



Last updated: 2014-10-30

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