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Dissertating 7 August 3, 2008

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Academically Speaking.
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A smattering of observations and thoughts about my research as the number-crunching continues. Fair warning to readers: some content may be esoteric.

Et tu, Consumption? Much of the (economic) work on remittances so far approaches the topic from a development perspective. Rightly or wrongly, this has meant that plenty research has been devoted to examining whether remittances lead to capital formation, poverty alleviation or similar issues, but not so much on its relationship to domestic consumption. To some degree, this is understandable: because remittances are seen as an alternative source of development finance, it is interesting to see whether these funds can help improve an underdeveloped economy. Yet as far as I’m concerned, if we concede that remittances are important to developing countries, then their impact on consumption is just as if not more important, especially if one considers that its recipients depend largely on such funds. Personally, I think this should be obvious, but it seems like it takes someone like Robert Lucas to shake up the research agenda.

Working, working. In looking for relevant materials, it’s was inevitable that I’d happen upon tentative research presented as working papers by their respective authors and institutions. However, it’s come to my attention that there is a huge difference between materials from outside the Philippines and those of “foreign” origin. Those of Philippine origin — from the UP School of Economics, for instance, or the Philippine Institute of Development Studies — have a violator stating that the work is not to be cited without the prior permission of the author. In contrast, “foreign” working papers usually just have the typical disclaimer that the work does not necessarily represent the views of the parent institution, but remain silent on whether the work may be quoted. It’s a subtle if important difference; whether intentional or otherwise, to my mind it shows how much more cloistered and protective of proprietary information Philippine academia is and thereby out of step with the rest of the world.

I see equations! I hadn’t realized how consumed by research I’ve become until I caught myself in several meetings these past few weeks with my mind wandering, visualizing in front of me one or another regression model (usually a vector autoregression) and whether I could make it work. If it wasn’t scary it might actually be funny.

Studies. It’s funny how the term “study” has been abused by the academia. Practically any lengthy treatise on a subject is dubbed a “study”, which seems like quite a stretch. If anything, this is probably the “publish or perish” culture of higher education at work. Is a purely descriptive work a study? I doubt it. At its simplest, shouldn’t a study be empirical, or investigate some relationship between variables?

Simultaneous Programming. Because I fully intend to finish my research as soon as possible, I find myself in a quandary: on the one hand I feel that I still need to gather more information on the topic in order to fine tune what I intend to do, but on the other it’s painfully apparent that I need to get started with some number crunching so I have a firmer grasp of what the numbers may indicate. It’s not easy: it takes time to read and it takes time to write out the code to run regressions (for now I’m using R) and either way I run the risk of succumbing to analysis paralysis. But such is the nature of forward progress.

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