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Developing Bangladesh through Research

BIDS has been doing research work for development for the last 50 years.

For a developing country research is probably the single-most important tool in keeping apace with the rest of the world. It's certainly not the most glamorous work in the world, requiring hours of sifting through miles of data and information, making comparisons and coming to conclusions, but at the end of the day, without such research from as varying topics as agriculture, health and migration, all development work would simply fall apart. One organisation that has been consistently doing this tedious, and often unrecognised, job for the last 50 years is Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS).

BIDS, the largest and the oldest social science research organisation in the country started its journey during the pre-liberation period and the Institute moved to Dhaka in January 1971. After independence, it was named as the Bangladesh Institute of Development Economics (BIDE), with renowned economist, Professor Nurul Islam as its Director General. A Parliamentary Charter was awarded in 1974 and the Institute was renamed as the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) to reflect the multi-disciplinary focus of its development research. It is mandated to function as an agency for initiating and conducting study, research and dissemination of knowledge in the fields of economic development, population studies and human resources and other social issues related to planning for national development.

BIDS serves as a conduit for dissemination of research findings through its library, publications, website and seminar programmes, conducting training and workshops and generally engaging proactively with the broader national and international communities. BIDS researchers also directly contribute to formulation of development policies through participation in government committees and task forces. In short, BIDS serves as a resource centre for the community at large.

During the Pakistan period, the primary focus of research was on industry and trade-related issues. With changing economic and social conditions, the focus gradually moved to many areas relating to globalisation, macroeconomic issues, agriculture and rural development, water resources management, poverty and inequality, food security, microcredit, health, nutrition, education, energy, environment, gender, empowerment, migration, urbanisation and other development issues. After 1971, the focus shifted to agriculture and rural development. Poverty related research gained momentum since the early 1990s. How to operationalise 'pro-poor growth' became an important area of research during this period to provide a better understanding of the pathways by which poor people contribute to and benefit from growth. Micro credit emerged as a powerful instrument of poverty alleviation and women's empowerment, especially in the rural areas since the late 1980s. A number of in-depth researches were undertaken by BIDS to evaluate the impact of micro credit in rural Bangladesh. The research activities of BIDS are performed by researches located in five divisions - Agriculture and Rural Development Division (ARDD), General Economics Division (GED), Human Resources Developme nt Division (HRDD), Industry and Physical Infrastructure Division (IPID), and Population Studies Division (PSD).

BIDS with a Parliamentary Charter which gives it wide and effective autonomy in the choice of research issues can make important contribution to the national policy agenda.

The research output of BIDS provides valuable input to the policy makers and development practitioners for designing appropriate development interventions. The contribution of BIDS to the country's development process, however, remains contingent upon the choice of relevant agenda and proper use of its research output by the end-users. The gap between research and policy making has historically remained quite significant in Bangladesh.
The BIDS library, the largest social sciences library in Bangladesh, has a collection of over 1,22,000 books, documents, journals and microfiche. (Top) And a group of reaserchers from BIDS. (Bottom)

The BIDS library, the largest social sciences library in Bangladesh, has a collection of over 1,22,000 books, documents, journals, and microfiches. About 10,000 teachers, students, and researchers use the library facilities every year. It also participates in information networks to facilitate resource sharing, and maintains inter-library loan relationships with selected libraries in Dhaka city. About 40 CD-ROM databases are available in the library and users can avail full Internet services. BIDS' administrative unit provides logistic support for research activities. The computer unit was established in 1982. All the researchers have computers in their office rooms with full-time Internet connection. Computers are also used in all the support services. All the computers work under a single network. The main thrust of the publication unit are to publish books, journals, reports and monographs, improve the marketability of the institute's publications and thus contribute in promoting a wider dissemination of research findings. BIDS publishes a quarterly journal The Bangladesh Development Studies aimed at researchers, policymakers and concerned citizens. In addition to various ministries and institutes of Bangladesh, BIDS works with various international organisations and research institutes.

"BIDS's research priorities are largely dictated by the emerging needs and challenges of the Bangladesh economy," says Dr. Quazi Shahabuddin, Director General of the Institute, "the focus of research is generally on medium term development issues. A number of organisations have specialised on short term development issues and hence, BIDS should continue to focus mainly on medium and long-term policy-oriented research related to socio-economic development of the country. In the future, the areas most likely to receive greater attention include macroeconomic, trade and energy related issues, and impact of climate changes on long-term development.

"Along with focus on medium and long term development issues," says Dr. Rushidan Islam Rahman, Research Director of the Institute, "BIDS should engage in high quality analytical research for its journal, critical review of the published official statistics and analysis of the economy and independent monitoring of some key indicators of economic and social development."

"My understanding of the history of BIDS is that this organisation has always focused on a topical issue of the time," says Dr. Mahabub Hossain, ex-DG, BIDS, "I reckon it is time for BIDS to focus on informal economy. BIDS can give leadership in generating comprehensive primary data to understand the drivers of informal economy and their contribution to national development. Bangladesh can gain from spillover effects of the rapid economic growth of China and India, if we could position ourselves through identifying activities that India and China would be importing in which we have comparative advantage. BIDS should take up research to analyse the changing trade pattern of China and India and identify the commodities in which we can compete for export to our neighbours."

The launching ceremony of the Golden Jubilee Celebration was held on July 15, 2007. One of the most important events of BIDS's Golden Jubilee Celebration was the International Conference on 'Development Prospects of Bangladesh: Emerging Challenges' (2-3 December, 2007). Renowned scholars, who made path-breaking contributions to development studies and had association with the Institute during its early days, participated in the Conference.
-- HSA

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