Douglas Gollin, is the lead advisor and mentor on GDN’s Global Research Project, ‘Supporting Policy Research to Inform Agricultural Policy in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia’, a project supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
After many years on the Economics faculty at Williams College, he has recently accepted a position in Oxford University’s Department of International Development, where he will move in September 2012. He is also a visiting fellow at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. His research focuses on economic growth and development, with particular interests in agriculture and technology.
Prof. Gollin believes that researchers based in Africa and Asia have a wealth of knowledge – not only from their formal analyses but also from their own lived experiences and their first-hand encounters with the policy world. The project offers an opportunity for him and other “senior advisors” based in North America and Europe to work in partnership with colleagues from Africa and Asia. In this setting, they can learn from their African and Asian colleagues about the complexity of agricultural policymaking on the ground. Prof. Gollin notes that when seen from a distance, textbook answers seem obvious and pertinent. However, from up close, the textbook views run into the nuance of reality. Politics, culture, and geography all intrude on the tidiness of the textbook theories.
Prof. Gollin praises the GDN project for creating networks to strengthen the supply of knowledge and for connecting researchers from Africa and Asia with colleagues from North America and Europe – and also with one another. He has also worked with GDN to match the teams of researchers based in the South with highly trained research assistants, who can learn from working with experts from both North and South. He firmly believes research cannot be done in isolation. Individual scholars need networks of colleagues to support them, challenge them, and share in the pursuit of knowledge.
In this project, Prof. Gollin brings to the table some of the relevant literatures, but he notes that he expects to learn more than he puts in. He hopes that everyone participating in the project will end up as a net beneficiary. In Prof. Gollin’s words, “the gains from trade in knowledge and ideas can be large”.