World Bank (or more specifically DEC, its Development Economics Group) publishes countless research studies, reports and papers, which influence development thinking and developmental policies of countries.
A couple of months back, in December 2006, it released one more of its research reports. Titled "Evaluation of World Bank Research: 1998-2005", this report has not received as much publicity as it deserved (though The Financial Times did characterize the 165 page report as “a scathing critique” of the Bank’s selective use of unscientific data to advocate policies and projects that are ideologically in vogue, such as pension reform, aid effectiveness, and poverty mapping).
This study, commissioned by World Bank, was conducted by a team of consisting of a panel of 24 established researchers (from places like London School of Ecnomics, MIT, Oxford, Universities of Columbia, Yale, Harvard, MIT, etc.), and was led by Profs Abhijit Banerjee (MIT), Angus Deaton (Princeton University), Nora Lustig (UNDP) and Ken Rogoff (Harvard University).
While the report is not all negative - in fact, it also lauds some of WB's reports and also empathises the constraints of doing research on complex topics - here are some excerpts which are quite revealing:
About the Quality of Research:
About Conditions under which Research is done:
- "Researchers are not free to follow intellectual inspiration. They are under constraints of designated priorities and of an apparent need to be immediately useful to operations. Further there is the strong hierarchy and an atmosphere much more deferential then would be found in universities. Among researchers there is considerable concern with what superiors will think of conclusions reached, to the occasional detriment of whether an analysis is sound."
About WB's annual World Development Reports: