ERSA is a national 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.
The Working and Policy Paper series has grown to a total of 739 published papers. Approximately 64 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 351 (a 48% publication rate – high for any working paper series), of which 222 have appeared in international journals, and 129 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.
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 140 Research Briefs have been circulated.
Workshop activity During 2017-2018, 5 events/workshops were held, and attendance at the workshops continues to represent a diverse representation of national institutions and demographics. A total of more than 63 institutions, of which 21 were South African, have been represented at ERSA workshops during this reporting period.
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 2017-2018, 9 scholarship awardees fulfilled the final clause of their contract by submitting their final thesis to the ERSA Working Paper Series.
The Skills Development Initiative, which is aimed at raising the technical skills of young faculty members for an active research career, continues with the third cohort having completed their final workshop on Panel Data Analysis in Nov 2017. Meanwhile the 4th cohort attended their first workshop on Time Series Techniques in July 2017 to be followed by their 2nd workshop on Cross-Sectional Techniques scheduled for July 2018.
Under the Measuring Institutions Project, a full report can be found on Page 66 of the Annual Report.
Unfortunately, the funding that ERSA has enjoyed from National Treasury has come to an end at the end of this financial year. There is no doubt 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 13 years. The organization will scale down the initiatives for the next year and a possible closure is expected in 2019, if other source of financing are not found. Nevertheless, the Board and the leadership team are committed to make sure that the contribution of ERSA to the economic research community in the country remains relevant and that the legacy of ERSA will be preserved for the benefit of the large academic community
ERSA has benefited from the time, effort, and contributions of many people. We thank particularly the ERSA Office team of Gloria Halland and Megan Gelderbloem have distinguished themselves by their efficiency and dedication without none of our operations would be feasible. We also want to thank Yoemna Mosaval, who resigned in October 2017, for her exceptional contribution over many years to the organization: she performed the difficult task of dealing with vainglorious academics with kindness and humor, always teaching us the values of humility and respect.