New Director for CDES

Asad Islam has been the new director of Centre for Development Economics and Sustainability (CDES) for just a few months. In this new position, he hopes to improve the impact of the research on real world problems and better translate theoretical research into policy. The new job is not without challenges.

“I want to work on issues that affect people’s lives and this position will give me the opportunity to work and engage with the outside world as well as communicating our research to have a stronger impact on the real world," he says.

"The plan is to generate interest in terms of engaging with policy makers, Non-Governmental Organisations and government to translate research into action and make a difference in the lives of poor people of the world.”

CDES is set to hire two research fellows as well as another senior position in the New Year. The senior position will focus on policy and external engagement. The plan is to expand even more with the research funds from the Faculty to increase the research capacity. External funding will also be hugely important in growing the CDES. This will be one of Asad’s greatest challenges.

“I have been successful in applying for external grants so far and that’s part of the reason I got this job. But in this current climate when funding for foreign aid has been cut down by all major developed countries, the research funding has also been cut in this area," he says.

"I have to seek funding from outside Australia and I’m encouraging my colleagues to do the same. To sustain our presence we need funds as the faculty can’t finance us indefinitely.”

Another major challenge is engaging with policymakers to push for change. Asad hopes growing the centre into a more established platform within the field and building trust with policy makers will be a long-term, rewarding process.

“We want to help translate advanced rigorous research into policy level research. We want to have a core capacity to attract more research funding and we also want to engage with other academics. We have expertise working in field experiments and we want to strengthen this branch," he says.

"At the same time development economics is broader than that and we want to embrace theory work that academics may want to test in the field. We do surveys and experiments but are open to any ideas related to poverty, inequality and economic growth in developing countries.

"I’m hoping colleagues in EBS, Economics and other departments will find it more useful to collaborate with us as I believe they can also reap benefits from collaborations."

What does getting this job mean to you personally?

“It is a humbling experience and I am very grateful. At the same time, it’s challenging. I come from a rural area in Bangladesh where there was a lot of poverty and inequality. I am emotionally attached to this job. I am committed to make changes so I hope this new role will allow me to make some changes in the lives of the people who need it. If a child grows up with more opportunities because of an intervention we did or a policy change, then she can look after the parents, the community and make changes in the way my parents did for me.”

The CDES started in 2015 with Sisira Jayasuriya as its inaugural Director. He stepped down earlier this year. Asad is very recognisant of his work and support.

“Sisira has done an exceptional job. He brought people together under one umbrella working as a group, making CDES present in many areas," he says.

"We want to continue and expand what he has started. He is my mentor and I am very glad he will remain in the centre. I hope we will continue to have more engaging discussions and his wide network help us get more external grants.”