The benefits of social science research travels beyond academic purposes to impact on our daily lives. All over the world new methods and new tools are transforming the way social scientists do research and make arguments.  

The increasing availability of data from survey, administrative, and remote sensing sources broadens the view of researchers and makes it much easier to draw connections between seemingly unrelated dimensions of human life. Enriched connections between social scientists and policymakers, programme implementers and businesses have made it possible to expand the use of randomized control trials to make causal inference transparent. 

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At the recent Vice-Chancellor’s Occasional Lecture, a lecture series platform at the University of Ghana that hosts renowned scientists from across the globe, visiting development economist Prof. Christopher Udry of the Yale University, USA made a presentation on the progress of research, particularly the rise of journal publications about Africa and particularly Ghana. This focus shift to Africa and Ghana Prof Udry said, was essential for transforming development. He added that the revolution of data collection has made it no longer acceptable for data to be collected and not shared. Data sharing is crucial to open up hitherto impossible scholarships as well as the drawing of connections between human behaviour. The Yale Professor said the rigorous study of social sciences will help research respond to new ideas and new theories in order to push knowledge to feed into policy making.  He commended the work of the Yale-ISSER panel survey for its 3-4 years comprehensive work into the evolution of about 5 thousand households in Ghana for about three years and the second phase which is underway. He hoped that the Yale-ISSER partnership would continue to provide insight into broad based research across the country.

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Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana Prof Ernest Aryeetey called for more rigour in social sciences research, warning that Ghana is losing out to foreign researchers who provide more rigourous, analytical and practical work for policy makers. He cautioned, “We cannot afford to have the world describe our work as descriptive and lacking in rigour”.

Members of the audience engaged the Guest Lecturer Prof. Christopher Udry, Vice-Chancellor Prof. Ernest Aryeetey, Provost Prof. Samuel Agyei-Mensah and ISSER Director Prof. Felix Asante in an interactive session after the presentations.

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Profile: Professor Christopher Udry

Professor Christopher Udry is a Professor of Economics at Yale University.  He is a development economist whose research focuses on rural economic activity in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 1996-1997 Professor Udry was a visiting Research Scholar to ISSER, University of Ghana where he undertook research in collaboration with both junior and senior researchers in Ghana, He has over the years collaborated with researchers at ISSER and the Economics department on many research projects that have led to very high impact journal publications. He has also supported ISSER in securing a number of research funds. Some examples include: 

a.   Millennium Development Authority Evaluations that have been undertaken by ISSER. This project was about US$1.24million

b.   ISSER – Yale Panel Surveys. This 15-21 year project and is currently ongoing and worth about US$1million per wave (each wave is done every 3 or 4 years)

c.   The Hunger project undertaken with researchers at ISSER

d.   Evaluation of Land Titling in Efutu Awutu Senya District in Ghana being undertaken by ISSER.

Professor Chris Udry’s research on the pineapple industry in Ghana greatly influenced the design of the US government Millennium Challenge Accounts programme in which Ghana was given US$547million to help transform agriculture in Ghana. 

Professor Udry is one of the recent awardees of an honorary degree by the University of Ghana under the category, Distinguished Scholarship at the University’s Special Congregation.