Skip navigation

About the Office of the Chief Economist

Strengthening public policies and institutions is fundamental to longer term growth and development.

Our key role is to support OPM in the development and delivery of this strategic objective. We seek to strengthening links between research and policy, both externally and internally, as well as finding new and innovative ways of achieving impact on growth, poverty, and disadvantage.

In practice, we deliver this through four key activities: academic research programmes, the Oxford Policy Fellowship, thought leadership, and innovation.

Research programmes

As an organisation, we're uniquely capable of managing research programmes on the interface between world-class research and decision making on economic policy and reform. We pride ourselves on our ability to both translate policy and reform challenges into researchable questions, and to then translate research findings back into policy analysis and debates; this is a distinctive feature of our experience and expertise. We currently run three major research programmes, which are outlined in more detail below.

1. Researching on Improving Systems of Education

Research on Improving Systems of Education (RISE) is a large-scale, multi-country research programme that seeks to understand how school systems in the developing world can overcome the learning crisis, and deliver better learning for all.

Through the support, facilitation, synthesis, and harnessing of education systems research, the RISE Programme aims to:

  • provide an analytical framework to describe and understand how education systems function;
  • generate research that evaluates large-scale system reform efforts on the basis of its impact on student learning and equity in learning across genders and socio-economic classes;
  • generate explanations for why reforms succeed or fail;
  • collect and disseminate new quantitative and qualitative data on education generally; and
  • build a community of practice of local and international researchers, teachers, policymakers, and other education practitioners to ensure they have access to the most relevant, up-to-date research.

Find out more.

We manage the RISE programme on behalf of its funders, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). It has commissioned and manages six in-country research teams to carry out primary multidisciplinary research on system level education reforms in Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Tanzania, and Vietnam. The RISE Directorate, comprising ourselves, the Blavatnik School of Government, and the Center for Global Development, coordinates this research activity to provide global policy makers with practical, evidence-based solutions to transform education systems to provide better learning for all.

For further information about RISE, please visit the programme's website or get in touch with the RISE programme manager, Aude Duquesne.

2. Economic Development and Institutions

The Economic Development and Institutions Programme (EDI) aims to address the knowledge gap on how institutions can change in a way that improves economic development, with its intended impact of creating economic growth that is sensitive to distributional, environmental, social, and conflict-related dynamics.

It is a multi-dimensional programme, which features four inter-connected research activities (RAs):

  • RA1 focused on the production of 23 thematic ‘path-finding’ papers that lay the foundations for further research. This activity was completed during inception.
  • RA2 aims to modify and develop Hausmann, Rodrik, and Velasco’s ‘growth diagnostics’ framework to an analysis of institutional impediments to growth, resulting in the development of an institutional diagnostic tool for use in low income countries.
  • RA3 will involve carrying out linked RCTs examining the impact of specific institutional changes on a range of outcomes, taking into account the general EDI insight that institutions interact, and that the impact of certain institutional interventions or changes may depend on other institutional conditions.
  • RA4 is a set of coordinated case studies aimed at filling research gaps using a range of methodologies. It will involve the study of formal/informal interactions, positive connections between patterns of institutional dynamics and development outcomes and to assess their impacts on a variety of dimensions.

A distinguishing feature of EDI is its ambition to connect the demand for policy relevance with the supply of academic research, which entails a focus on policy engagement throughout the life-cycle of the programme rather than just ‘uptake’ of findings. By combining world-leading researchers and experienced policy influencers, the programme seeks to make a lasting impact on both academic and policymaking worlds.

We lead the consortium, which includes: Paris School of Economics, University of Namur, and Aide à la Décision Économique. The Programme Director is our Team leader Mark Henstridge, and the Research Co-Directors are François Bourguignon and Jean-Philippe Platteau.

For further information please see the EDI website or get in touch with the EDI programme manager, Benjamin Klooss.

3. Energy and Economic Growth Applied Research Programme

Investment in large scale electricity infrastructure in low-income countries has the potential to bring about sustained improvements in human development indicators, while galvanising economic development.

Currently the links between energy and economic growth are critically under-researched, making it more difficult for policymakers to navigate the complex considerations and trade-offs associated with energy investments.

The Applied Research Programme on Energy and Economic Growth (EEG) is bringing together leading academics from across the world to build a body of evidence around how sector reforms, innovative technologies, and practicable actions can be used to help maximise the economic impacts of energy infrastructure investments in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia.

Through this innovative demand-led research and delivery approach, EEG aims to promote the use of evidence in policy decisions, and ultimately, help bring the benefits of modern energy services to poorer people.

We lead this five-year programme, which is funded by the UK Department for International Development. For more information on EEG, please contact the programme director Marcela Tarazona.

The Oxford Policy Fellowship

A key part of delivering policy impact is the effectiveness with which we can develop and sustain relationships with policy stakeholders in the countries in which we work. For this the Fellowship programme is important; but in addition, developing relationships with policy stakeholders through policy engagement activities under the research projects also matter.

The Oxford Policy Fellowship supports governments in overcoming the unique issues they face, by providing them with demand-led technical assistance.

We source high performing early-career advisors to work within current government systems and processes for two years so that their work contributes to ongoing policymaking, rather than creating parallel structures for getting things done.

For more information on the Fellowship please see the website, or contact the director of the initiative Kari Lipschutz.

Thought leadership

Our Thought Leadership and Research Coordination team aims to help us exist as a thinking organisation, with original and relevant ideas that respond to development policy challenges and potential clients priorities. We engage in three main activities:

  • synthesising and co-ordinating research outputs across OPM in order to maximise synergies and develop the original thinking that takes place within the company;
  • building networks between OPM and academic researchers in order to promote debate and identify future collaborations; and
  • the conducting of original research within the team to directly address development issues that are relevant to OPM’s work and impact.

One of our major thought leadership activities has been centred on industrial policy, increasingly a key priority for many developing countries and currently the subject of intense debate in academic and policy circles. Building upon collaborations with academics in the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford, and London, we research different theoretical perspectives on industrial policy, and relate them to policy work and OPM projects. A highlight has been Umar Salam’s work on the ‘product space’, in which he provides an alternative characterisation of Hausmann’s concept of economic complexity and uses it to challenge perspectives on diversification and production. This paper was delivered in the Centre for Development Studies at Cambridge this term and will be delivered at Oxford next term. In addition, we were recently delighted to welcome visiting scholars from DIE (the German Development Institute) to speak on green industrial policy.

For more information on the work our thought leadership team is currently doing, please contact Stevan Lee.


Developing new innovations, which are unique to our organisation, is also one of our team's core functions. These include combining our experience to be able to establish systems for the use of mobile phones for accountability in public service delivery, or for cracking the challenge of setting up successful special economic zones. We innovate by harnessing the expertise across the organisation, to test and develop new ways of solving development challenges.