Friday, October 06, 2006

Economists versus Operations Researchers

A real case study here threw up an interesting thinking style intrinsic to economists/ statisticians and operations researchers (OR). Both had their strengths and weaknesses.

Case study: The government of Qatar gave an open-ended project to RAND to reform their primary and secondary education system. Our case study question was how would one design the research and reform models.

The economists by training in our class started associating labour market requirements with quality of schooling as part of the research phase. The OR guys by training went for the systems approach. They wanted a complete mapping of the system even before they could think about inter-relationships between components. An approach that I would support more in the initial phase.

When the reforms part came, the OR guys would think in terms of putting in neat little blocks of functional units (like those in World Bank "structural reform" presentations) that could reform the education system of Qatar. However, the economist guys would try nail to down the incentives for each functional unit to perform. An approach that I would support more in the latter phase.

It is not a bad idea to dabble in the intellect of different modeling disciplines!

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