Section I Introduction

International Monetary Fund
Published Date:
April 2000
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Objectives of the Evaluation

1. This evaluation of the International Monetary Fund’s economic research activities was commissioned by the IMF’s Executive Board. The evaluation is one of a series of external evaluations looking at different aspects of the Fund’s operations.

2. The purpose of the evaluation, as stated in the Terms of Reference, is to

  • assess whether economic research in the IMF contributes successfully to the achievement of the Fund’s objectives. For this purpose, the evaluation will assess the appropriateness of the present scale and organization of research activities, the way in which the level of resources are chosen, and how they relate to the overall work of the Fund. The evaluation will also seek to assess the quality and the added value of different aspects of the Fund’s economic research and to appraise its utility in the Fund among its member countries, and within the wider economics community.

3. Our committee of external consultants was given a six-month timeframe, with total resources of six person-months and a limited travel budget, in which to make an assessment. In making that assessment, we have considered the following broad, interrelated questions:

  • What is the definition of economic research in the context of the Fund?

  • Why does the Fund need research and what are the Fund’s research needs?

  • What is the present scale of research in the Fund?

  • Is the Fund doing the right amount, type and mix of research to best meet its needs?

  • Is research organized in the most effective way?

  • Is the research of high quality?

  • Is the research presented and disseminated effectively to the right audiences?

4. The full Terms of Reference for the evaluation are attached as Annex I to this report.

How the Evaluation Was Conducted

5. The Committee interviewed a wide range of people, both inside and outside the Fund, to canvass their opinions on Fund research.

6. Within the Fund, the Committee interviewed about 100 people:

  • 2 members of management;

  • 15 Executive Directors;

  • 36 A-level economist staff and 40 B-level staff (including all Department Directors) from the following departments: African, Asia and Pacific, European I, European II, Fiscal Affairs, IMF Institute, Middle Eastern, Monetary and Exchange Affairs, Policy Development and Review, Research, Statistics, and Western Hemisphere.

7. We also interviewed several staff in the Administration and External Relations Departments. We actively sought interviews with a number of the people we interviewed. However, we also circulated an open invitation to all members of the departments mentioned above to meet with us if they wished to.

8. Outside the Fund, we spoke to 86 people. Of these:

  • 15 are former Fund staff (5 are now in academia, 4 are now in policymaking capacities in national governments, 3 are now in the private financial sector, 2 are retired, and 1 works in a policy institute);

  • 30 are national policymakers (in 12 countries in Europe, Asia, North and South America);

  • 5 work at the World Bank;

  • 17 are in academia (many with some prior or current link to the Fund or the World Bank);

  • 10 work in policy institutes;

  • 3 work in the private sector; and

  • 6 work in other international financial institutions.

9. Given limited time and budget for travel, we could not realistically interview all potential producers and users of Fund research. However, our interviewees are large in number and cover a wide spectrum of all interests inside and outside the Fund.

10. We also collated a list of the Fund’s research output in the last four years (1995–98) and reviewed samples of the output for quality and relevance. This process is described in greater detail in the beginning of Section III.

11. We are grateful to all those we interviewed for their insights, and to Fund staff in support functions who provided us with background information, data, and other Fund records.

Structure of the Report

12. We begin in Section II by articulating our view of the role of research in the Fund. We first define research in the context of the Fund, then consider why research is important for the Fund. The details of how research is organized are found in Annex II.

13. Section III contains our evaluation of the effectiveness of research activities in helping the Fund to meet its objectives. We outline what we expected to see in the research operations of an organization such as the Fund, and assess the extent to which the Fund’s research operations meet our expectations.

14. Section IV contains our recommendations for improvement in the way research is organized, and operates. These recommendations are designed to ensure that the Fund’s research activities provide support for its operations and policy advice, thereby putting the Fund in a strong position to advocate and defend its advice and views to relevant external parties. The recommendations fall into two sets. The first set contains nine key, high-priority recommendations. The second set supplements and reinforces the nine key recommendations.

Research and the Wider Environment of the Fund

15. In any evaluation of a part of an organization’s functions, it is also necessary to consider how that part interacts with the rest of the organization. In evaluating research in the Fund, it is particularly necessary to consider the way the whole organization works because

  • research is not simply an output per se, it is also an essential input into other parts of the Fund’s operations (lending, advising on policy, etc.); and

  • research in the Fund is done throughout the organization, not only in the Research Department (although the type of research and the amount of time devoted to research varies significantly across the Fund).

16. Many of the issues that have important effects on the environment and incentives for research also affect other activities in the organization. We have therefore viewed the Terms of Reference for this report broadly, to include issues that affect other aspects of the way the organization operates as well as research.

17. We are also aware that in reviewing research—a specific activity of the Fund—we run the risk of failing to consider the trade-offs between the needs of research and the needs of other activities in the Fund. Research is extremely important to the Fund. However, we recognize that trade-offs have to be made between effort devoted to research and to other activities. These trade-offs are best made within the framework of an overall strategic plan for the institution, which would also set the broader framework for deciding on research priorities.

18. While the scope of our review necessarily must be limited to research activities, we believe it should feed into a wider strategic planning process so as to allocate sufficient resources for research activities and to determine where to concentrate research effort.

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