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RA5a: Structure,environment and staffing policy

Research in the Kent Department of Economics covers a wide range of subjects spanning core areas of the discipline. All its members are active in research and, as in the 1996 exercise, we are now returning a 100% submission. In this submission, we aim to demonstrate that we have developed the infrastructure, the staff and the strategy to generate high quality and influential research in a range of sub-disciplines within both macro and microeconomics. As set out below, key areas of expertise include labour, development, transport, environment, health, industrial, regional, monetary and public economics.

a) The University has a coherent research support structure at three levels – the University, the Faculty and the Department. The University provides support through its Research Office for administration and promoting of funding applications, dissemination of information and collaborations with industry and government. Through its Board for Research, chaired by the Deputy Vice Chancellor, it aims to develop an effective strategy for all matters relating to research and to research students, including the development of regional, overseas and EU collaborations. This strategy enables the development of good reporting and quality structures, and ensures that procedures for research supervision and monitoring are kept in line with best practice. To ensure a continuous two-way flow of information, the Chair of the University Board for Research has regular annual meetings directly with the senior members of the Department of Economics’ research committee. The University also provides the course for the Post-Graduate Certificate in Higher Education (PGCHE), taken by all new lecturers including currently two from the Department of Economics (García-Alonso, León-Ledesma). This course includes a significant research training component, comprising discussion of research priorities, research strategies, research supervision, report-writing and grant applications.

There is also a Faculty Research Committee for Social Sciences, which allocates and monitors a small research fund for seed-corn research projects, provides interdisciplinary advice on funding applications, approves new research programmes of study, monitors the progress of research students and decides on amendments to the Faculty Code of Practice for Research Degree Candidates.

b) The Department of Economics’ research strategy is part of its overall plan, which forms the framework for ongoing decisions about staffing and other strategic issues. Its research committee meets once a term, with the principal aims of reviewing the research progress and plans of members of the Department, and considering possibilities for research collaboration. It also reviews applications for sabbatical leave. All such applications are expected to show specific, feasible research objectives and outcomes, and subsequent reports are evaluated. The Department holds regular staff seminars (about 15 per year), mainly with external speakers, and in addition a series of workshops where members of the Department, research staff and PhD students present their own work. The Department has ESRC research training recognition for its three MA programmes, and holds Mode A status for PhD supervision. The Jean Monnet Chair of European Economics supports occasional visitors to the department, e.g. Philippe Rollet (Lille), Johannes Bröcker (Dresden), Jacques Thisse (CORE and Paris) and Peter McAdam (European Central Bank).

All members of the Department are fully equipped with IT support, including state-of-the-art desk-top computers in individual offices. Either site or individual licences are provided for all necessary software. The Department has a dedicated computing officer. Research students are also provided with desktop computers and access to necessary software. All computers are networked to online library and Internet sources of information and data.

c) These structures and practices help support an active all-inclusive research culture in a comparatively small department. There is a good deal of collaboration among the Department’s members, centred on one formal and other informal research groups, containing both professorial and non-professorial staff.

The Centre for European, Regional and Transport Economics (director Vickerman, plus Peirson and Dickerson), established in 1993, acts as a focus for the department’s research on European economics, and especially for work on regional and transport economics. External funding typically supports two research assistants at any time, attached to particular projects. The Centre is subject to a three-yearly review by the University and was re-approved in 1996 and 1999. This has given the department an excellent profile for collaborative international research. This is indicated by involvement in three EU 4th Framework projects totalling ECU180,000 involving work in collaboration with universities in eleven other European countries including Free University Amsterdam, Leuven, National Technical University of Athens, Venice, Technical University of Lisbon. Current plans involve collaboration for 5th Framework projects. An INTERREG 2 project totalling £180,000 has been gained for the period 2000-2001 for work on cross border labour flows between northern France and southeast England. In addition the Centre has contributed to COST328 Integrated Strategic Infrastructure Networks for Europe with Vickerman acting as one of the four rapporteurs. Work on transport infrastructure appraisal has led to invitations to participate in meetings in Tokyo, Washington, Berlin, Bilbao, Copenhagen as well as with the European Commission in Brussels and the European Conference of Ministers of Transport, Paris. The RA2 publications by Vickerman and those joint with Dickerson and Peirson constitute some of the specific outputs of the Centre.

Informal groupings arise out of regular meetings in Keynes College, where the entire Department is located. Current group research in Labour Economics has been centred on the work of Carruth, Green, Dickerson, Pack and Sanfey. Carruth, Green and Dickerson are currently working together on the links between job insecurity and wages. Dickerson is also working with Green on the analysis of Brazil’s labour market, and the two will collaborate in 2001 on projects concerning workers’ skills in Britain. In Macroeconomics and Development, group work is centred around the research of Thirlwall, Hussein and León-Ledesma. Industrial and Public Economics (including Health Economics) is centred on the research (both theory and empirical) of Carruth, Delipalla, Dickerson, García-Alonso, Guariglia and O’Donnell, with additional contributions from honorary lecturer Sanfey. These groups operate effectively to produce collaborative research, as evidenced by an ongoing record of joint publications, and success in gaining external research funding. They have no formal reporting structure other than to the Department itself.

A first output point for some of the Department’s research is its successful working paper series, which has continued to flourish with on average 17 papers a year since 1996. These papers are all closely edited and reviewed by a member of the research committee before acceptance. They are made available online at WOPEC (http://netec.mcc.ac.uk/WoPEc.html) and on the department’s web pages (http://www.ukc.ac.uk/economics), and were accessed almost 18,000 times in 2000 alone. Currently, we are receiving circa 15,000 “hits” per month. Of the 70 papers appearing since 1996 some 60% are now published or forthcoming in journals.

d) Members of the Department maintain active links with various official and private agencies. Thus, Vickerman was a member of the DETR Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Assessment, 1996-99, and has provided advice to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Department for Trade and Industry on migration. He has also given evidence to the House of Lords European Affairs Committee, is on Research Information Group of Kent County Council, and has advised the South East England Development Agency on transport issues. Green was a member of the Research Advisory Committee to the National Skills Task Force, whose reports have made extensive use of Green’s recent research on skill trends and on the valuation of generic skills in the British labour market. Green was also invited, in December 1998, to give oral evidence to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Education and Training. O’Donnell is a member of the Advisory Group for a Department of Health research project, and together with colleagues from other Kent departments gave evidence to the Royal Commission on Long Term Care for the Elderly. Dickerson gave an invited seminar at the DTI to senior economists from the DTI and the Treasury on Takeovers and Investment (July 1998). Other links include consultancy work for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) (Dickerson), for the Department for Education and Employment (Green), for Learning and Business Link in Kent (Green), for the African Development Bank (Thirlwall), for the EU/International Union of Railways (Peirson), for the Phillipines Department of Energy (Peirson), for the International Centre for Economic Growth (the Middle East Office in Cairo) (Hussein) and for UNCTAD (Hussein). Green’s current work on training and on the links between technology and job demands has been taken up by the Institute of Public Policy Research for its Future of Work programme.

e) External research support has been dominated by European Union sources in the early part of the period, and by Research Council funding in the latter part. The former has funded part of the research of Vickerman, outcomes being exemplified in his RA2 publications (1) and (4). The RA2 publications (2) and (4) of Peirson are the outcomes of ESRC funding prior to 1996. The current research activities of Vickerman, Carruth, Dickerson and Green are being supported by a combination of Research Council, Leverhulme and central Government funding. The outcomes of these activities are due to appear over the next two years.

f) The University’s Research Office actively encourages collaborative and interdisciplinary projects through dissemination of information and provision of logistical support. Similarly, interdisciplinary work within the social sciences is strongly encouraged at Faculty level, and members of the Department have been active in discussing their work with members of other departments in the University. Within Economics, there is a tradition of collaborative work, which arises naturally from the research culture. There is also ongoing collaboration, including interdisciplinary work, with researchers in other universities and research centres. Green works with members of the Centre for Labour Market Studies at Leicester University, and is an associate member of the Centre for Skills, Knowledge and Economic Performance (Oxford and Warwick), of the Centre for Economic Performance at the LSE, and of the Centre for the Economics of Education (LSE, Institute of Education and Institute of Fiscal Studies). O’Donnell works with colleagues in the Personal Social Services Research Unit at Kent and at the London School of Economics, and at York. García-Alonso works with economists at Surrey University, while Carruth and Dickerson have been collaborating with economists at Athens University of Economics and Business, the Bank of Greece, and the Universities of Warwick and Aberystwyth. León-Ledesma works with an economist at the University of Technology, Sydney. Hussein collaborates with economists at the International Monetary Fund and at the Central Bank of Egypt. Guariglia collaborates with economists at the University of Essex, the University of Rome, Fordham University and Boston College.

g) There are no multiple citations in RA2.

h) All the Department’s work is submitted solely to the Economics and Econometrics Unit of Assessment.

Staffing Policy

a) In addition to the PGCHE, mentioned above, there are both formal and informal mechanisms for the support and integration of new lecturers into the research culture. There is a University-supported system of mentoring for new lecturers. Each new lecturer is allocated a senior member of the Department, in our case at professorial level, who has regular discussions about the new lecturer’s research agenda, provides advice about publications, funding applications and related matters. This mentoring function is independent of the normal probation system that applies to new lecturers. In addition, the Department and University operate an appraisal system for all established lecturers. In this Department, appraisal is carried out by the Head of Department and one Professor, and includes an evaluation of each individual’s research and discussion of research objectives for the following year.

Support is provided from departmental funds for attendance at the Royal Economic Society annual conference and for other conferences where a paper is being presented. Informal support for funding applications is provided primarily by the Professorial staff. Sabbatical leave for the purposes of undertaking research, accumulated at the rate of one term for three years of service, is available subject in each case to approval of the research committee of the Department and of the University. Small grants for seed-corn research projects are available from the Faculty of Social Science.

b) The Department now has an annual stock of roughly 8 PhD students at any one time mainly from overseas. The PhD students are fully integrated into the Department and are expected to both absorb and contribute to the research culture. Each student has a desk in a shared room with access to on-line computing and telephone. Other facilities available include fax, photocopying and a small budget for attending conferences in the UK, and overseas (if giving a paper). Students are expected to attend the weekly Staff-Graduate Student seminars and are encouraged to contribute work in progress to our Discussion Paper series. Students have either one or two main supervisors to whom they regularly submit work. Supervisors provide annual evaluations of the students’ work to the University. Upgrading to full PhD registration involves submission of draft chapters with original work, a thesis outline, and presentation of a seminar to the whole Department, which then recommends a decision.

Overseas PhD students typically come from the public sector and are financed by their host institutions – either Universities or civil service departments. Of 9 PhDs awarded since 1996, two are teaching in leading Brazilian Universities, others are lecturing in Botswana; Australia, South Africa and Turkey. Another student returned to the Ministry of Planning in Turkey and another to the Finance Ministry in St Lucia. At least four of the students have published widely in such journals as: World Development; Journal of Development Studies; Kyklos; Savings and Development; Economics Letters; Journal of Labor Research, Manchester School. One student is currently employed at Kent as a Research Assistant on a study of the Brazilian labour market, directed by Green and Dickerson and funded by the ESRC.

c) Dr. Alessandra Guariglia joined the staff on 1/8/00. Primarily in the area of industrial organisation and applied finance, she has published two further articles in these areas in addition to those quoted in RA2. These are: “Production Smoothing, Firms’ Heterogeneity, and Financial Constraints: Evidence from a Panel of UK Firms”, Oxford Economic Papers, 1999, 50, pp. 63-78 (co-author F. Schiantarelli), and “An analysis of inventory behavior in a Q-theoretic framework” in International Journal of Production Economics, 1999, 58, pp. 63-78. Her appointment was a replacement of an applied microeconomist, following as it did the resignation, to return to Greece, of Dr. Papapanagos from the regular lecturing staff in early 2000. Some of Dr. Guariglia’s research involves use of the British Household Panel Study, and she therefore augments the Department’s developing expertise with this data set.

d) A number of staff have moved on from the Department since 1996 to prestigious positions elsewhere, and we regard this as one indicator of external esteem. That is, the value of research experience gained while working in this Department is shown through members being able to find recognition elsewhere in this way. Since 1996 five lecturers left to join non-academic institutions while two joined other universities in promoted positions. Some such departures can be seen as unavoidable when much larger salaries are offered elsewhere.

The impact of these departures on research capacity has been more than balanced by the continued involvement of two (Sanfey and Papapanagos) in the research work of the Department, and by the appointment of research-oriented replacement staff. Sanfey, while now in a non-academic position, retains his connection with the department as an Honorary Lecturer, and is pursuing ongoing research work with Delipalla. Papapanagos is continuing his collaborative research with Vickerman on the ESRC “One Europe” programme. Before he left for Greece, Papapanagos was also working with Sanfey on migration issues (e.g. Sanfey (3))and on tax reform issues (publishing with M. Keen and A. Shorrocks “Tax reform and progressivity”, Economic Journal, 2000, 100(460), pp. 50-68).

Sanfey and McAdam comprise two Honorary Lecturers in the Department. Both work at banks (EBRD and ECB respectively), but base their scholarly research at Kent. This system affords them both the facilities and the opportunity for generating and pursuing joint research with category A members of the Department, and to publish working papers in the department's series. Our Honorary Lecturers also present occasional staff seminars and give talks to the Students' Economic Society.

The net effect after the appointment of research-oriented replacement staff, has been to reduce the emphasis on one area of specialisation (tourism) while maintaining and strengthening other areas. The appointments of Hussein and León-Ledesma have added to the macro, money, growth and development areas, while García-Alonso and Guariglia complement the strengths in the Department in applied microeconomics. Finally, the appointment of Green brings significant expertise in labour economics, and, moreover, considerable experience in terms of obtaining research funding, and managing research. His appointment (the first external professorial appointment in the department for more than 20 years) demonstrates the continued commitment of the University to supporting and enhancing the research environment in Economics. Thus, the net impact of staff turnover on the research strength of the Department since the last RAE has, on balance, undoubtedly been positive.

e) There are no members of the Department holding joint appointments with other institutions.


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Copyright 2002 - HEFCE, SHEFC, ELWa, DEL

Last updated 17 October 2003

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