Miscellany

I4I turns 7!

  • Blog Post Date 24 July, 2019
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Ashok Kotwal

Editor-in-Chief, Ideas for India; University of British Columbia

ashok.kotwal@ubc.ca

As I4I completes seven years, Editor-in-Chief Ashok Kotwal reflects on the achievements and challenges, and the vision going forward.

Seven years ago when we launched ‘Ideas for India’ as ‘a new voice in the cacophony of conversations about Indian growth and development – a voice that would clarify rather than obscure’, I was indeed full of trepidation. Will it really happen? Will anybody care to read it? Will serious scholars bother to send us simplified versions of their research papers? Will it promote evidence-based policymaking?

Today I feel much more sanguine. I used to have to beg for good articles that first year. Now we have a long queue of submissions waiting to be processed. We have had over 1,000 contributors from all over the world, including almost all the prominent economists working on the issues of growth and development in India. Our monthly readership has grown to over 22,000. We know that many among the Indian bureaucracy are regular readers. We find our articles cited in the Economic Survey that the Government of India puts out before the annual budget, and reports of international organisations.  Every now and then our articles are reprinted in leading national dailies and prominent online publications. 

Since the launch in 2012, we have slowly expanded our repertoire. We started out doing non-technical, shorter versions of research papers with the explicit mission of introducing evidence-based arguments into public discourse. But the fact that NGOs doing grassroots-level work often have important insights into the actual implementation of policies and programmes, made us introduce a feature called ‘Notes from the Field’. Sometimes it is possible to deepen our understanding of a topic through thoughtful commentary by an expert even if it is not based on one particular piece of research. To accommodate such content, we introduced a feature called ‘Perspectives’.  Every now and then an issue arises that is better understood if it is subjected to an examination from different viewpoints. This led us into creating yet another feature called ‘Symposia’. Recently, we have also added ‘Explainers’ that explain the key concepts and relevance of topics like cryptocurrencies or artificial intelligence that are in the news but are obscure for most lay people. In addition, we also post conversations with prominent scholars and policymakers on various topics as podcasts or videos. Our latest initiative involves making selected I4I content available in Hindi.  

We have been fortunate in having our home on the premises of Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) – a premier research institute for economic research in India. The academic environment and the intellectual resources there have been great help in maintaining our standards. Our last two annual events were organised in collaboration with ISI in tandem with their annual conference on development economics. 

This year we are taking another step by entering into collaboration with the Tata Centre of Development (TCD) at the University of Chicago who share our mission of injecting evidence-based arguments into public discussion. 

Over the last seven years’ we have not stood still. We have kept trying new features as they occurred to us. We are well aware that unless we continuously strive to widen our horizons, they will shrink on us. Hopefully, our aspirations will not distract us from our goal to clarify rather than obscure in making economic knowledge accessible to general public. 

Our success so far has only been possible due to the support we have received from our readers and contributors and for which we are immensely grateful. 

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