Annual Report 2016

Director’s Statement
 
ERSA is a nationally funded programme designed to both broaden the scope of economic research in South Africa, and to deepen its quality in order to ensure greater international exposure of economic research conducted in Southern Africa.
 
Toward this end ERSA has been mandated by its Board to publish a Working and Policy Paper series, provide financial incentives to researchers to publish their papers in peer reviewed scholarly journals, run a Workshop programme across a range of distinct focus areas in economics, and to provide support to graduate students in economics in Southern Africa.
 
This report provides an overview of our activities, which are detailed in the remainder of the annual report.
 
The Working and Policy Paper series has grown to a total of 675 published papers. Approximately 100 papers are appearing in the series each year, while the peer review process that selects the papers for publication referees considerably more contributions. The volume of publication, the width of coverage of sub-fields of economics, and the range of methodologies represented in the ERSA Working and Policy Paper series is unmatched by any other working paper series in Southern Africa.
 
The success rate of ERSA Working Papers appearing in scholarly journals also continues to rise steadily. The number of published papers has reached 333 (a 49% publication rate – high for any working paper series), of which 216 have appeared in international journals, and 112 in national journals. The high publication rate of the Working Paper series reflects the quality of referee input in helping to ready papers for peer review in journals, as well as the quality of the papers that are being published under ERSA’s auspices.
 
The success of the Working & Policy Paper series is also evidenced in the number of downloads of papers from our website. The downloads have moved from 58,626 in 2013, to 115067 in 2016. This is well above any other working paper series that is published in Southern Africa.
 
A consistent objective of ERSA has been to ensure that the research that it publishes has a policy impact. Toward this end, since 2015 ERSA has published a Research Brief series, issued once a week (though the series existed in more infrequent issues since 2013). This presents summary results from research, in concise and non-technical form. The series is circulated to the full ERSA database of email contacts, and is published on the website and by social media. Over the period to the close of the financial year, a total of 106 Research Briefs have been circulated.
 
As for the Working and Policy Paper series, downloads of the Research Briefs from the ERSA website attests to their success. Downloads have risen from 1,105 in 2013, to 4,003 in 2016. Since the Research Briefs are circulated in full to the ERSA mailing list, downloads will reflect a fraction of the total number of reads of the series.
 
Workshop activity During 2016-2017, 4 workshops were held, and attendance at the workshops continues to represent a diverse representation of national institutions and demographics. A total of more than 30 institutions, of which 12 were South African, have been represented at ERSA workshops during this reporting period.
 
The ERSA Policy Associates have continued to produce a consistent flow of Working Papers and journal publications, as well as conference presentations.
 
Under the ERSA scholarship scheme, a total of 65 scholarships have been awarded to date, 62 for Masters, and 3 for PhD study. During the course of 2015 – 2016, 30 applicants responded to ERSA’s scholarship funding invitation of R80000 for a one year full time Master’s programme in Economics. Of these applications, 10 successful candidates from a diverse range of institutions throughout South Africa were selected and awarded with an ERSA scholarship for 2017. The demographic breakdown of the 10 awardees is as follows: 3 black females, 1 white female, 5 black males and 1 white male.
 
The Skills Development Initiative, which is aimed at raising the technical skills of young faculty members for an active research career, continues with the final workshop on Panel Data Analysis for the 3rd cohort scheduled for Nov 2017, and a call sent out for applications for a new cohort (4th) to begin their training at a workshop scheduled for July 2017.
Under the Measuring Institutions Project, the West African case studies are near completion, while the Ethiopian and Democratic Republic of Congo case studies are ongoing. A workshop in Cape Town where the results of all five case studies undertaken thus far can be presented is in planning phase.
 
As always, ERSA has benefited from the time, effort, and contributions of many people, particularly the research group conveners, and those who serve in the editorial process of the Working and Policy Paper series. Members of the Skills Development Committee have continued to work at generating a broader and more inclusive academic community in South Africa. Both ERSA Deputy Directors have been also borne a substantial burden on their time, particularly surrounding the strategic review of ERSA.
 
Once again, the ERSA Office team of Gloria Halland, Yoemna Mosaval and Megan Gelderbloem have distinguished themselves by their efficiency and dedication without none of our operations would be feasible.
 
The funding that ERSA has enjoyed from National Treasury continues to deserve the ongoing sincere thanks and recognition of the economics profession in South Africa.
 
There is no doubt in my mind that the strength of research activity in economics in South Africa would be far weaker at present, without the extensive support that National Treasury has extended to the profession over the past 12 years. We look forward to continuing to work with Treasury in pursuing the strategic objectives set out by the ERSA Board.
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