New research initiative tackles pressing global development issues

Fundamental challenges in food insecurity, poverty, agriculture, health, education and markets form the focus of Collaboration for International Development Economics Research (CIDER), a new initiative launched by the Office of the Provost, the SC Johnson College of Business, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Arts and Sciences and the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Policy.

“CIDER builds on a long history of Cornell research and engagement in the economies of nations, particularly developing and emerging economies challenged by global economic forces,” said Provost Michael I. Kotlikoff. “This initiative expands the interdisciplinary focus of these efforts, bringing economists, social scientists, policy experts and agricultural experts together to pursue solutions to some of our most difficult global challenges.”

Hosted by the SC Johnson College, CIDER unites 24 faculty across campus and the world, along with students, staff, researchers and external partners, to create and share knowledge. CIDER’s activities will encompass research, workshops, seminars, internships, career mentoring and continuing-education coursework.

“We’re delighted to embark on this new collaborative effort in development economics,” said Andrew Karolyi, the Charles Field Knight Dean of the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business. “CIDER taps into existing expertise and a grand legacy of intellectual leadership at Cornell going back decades. I can’t wait to see the tangible impact CIDER makes on campus and around the world.”

CIDER’s inaugural faculty director is Chris Barrett, the Stephen B. and Janice G. Ashley Professor of Applied Economics and Management in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and professor in the Brooks School.

“We expect CIDER will further reinforce Cornell's already formidable reputation in this space,” Barrett said. The university’s impact in development economics was established over many decades and reinforced when standard measures of poverty and food insecurity were developed here in the 1980s. Now, CIDER provides a forum to collaborate on large-scale projects, advance policy-relevant research and train early career scholars and practitioners.

Through a workshop hosted by CIDER on May 10, the center is already encouraging new collaborations in East African dryland drought research, risk management and policy.

The World Bank, the African Development Bank, private organizations and multiple East African national governments are currently investing nearly $1 billion in the region to address drought, Barrett said.

“The efficacy and the impact of these massive investments can be directly influenced by research findings,” he said. “Indeed, research by Cornell and partners going back to the late 2000s underpins the initiative. We’re now working to produce timely policy-relevant, clearly communicated and rigorous research that can inform that effort.”

Among other presentations at the workshop, Karlijn Morsink, Utrecht University economist and CIDER-affiliated adjunct associate professor at the Dyson School, discussed her work leading the evaluation of World Bank programs in the region and share opportunities for Cornell faculty and student involvement.

“This workshop and the collaborations it represents offer just one example,” Barrett said. “We look to scale this type of effort across a range of different domains.”

CIDER will also support early career mentoring through two formal programs. Structural Transformation of Agriculture and Rural Spaces (STARS), an existing Cornell program, previously paired early career researchers who earned degrees in Africa with mentors at Cornell and affiliated institutions. Now under CIDER’s umbrella, STARS is open to scholars across all low- and lower-middle-income countries.

Additionally, a predoctoral program for scholars who have not yet earned advanced degrees will provide one to three years of research experience and professional development training with core faculty. One predoctoral fellow already began work in January, and three more arrive this summer.

Building professional networks, increasing research capacity, disseminating best practices in the field and shaping early career researchers for the next generation are at the heart of CIDER’s mission, Barrett said. “This is a really exciting venture.”

Alison Fromme is a writer for the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business.

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