Paul Dalziel is Professor of Economics and Deputy Director of the Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit at Lincoln University, New Zealand. His research focuses on economic and social policy, with an emphasis on regional economic development. He is a Fellow of the Regional Studies Association and is the current RSA Ambassador for New Zealand. He has authored or edited 11 books, and written 105 refereed chapters and articles. His latest book is Wellbeing Economics: The Capabilities Approach to Prosperity, published in September 2018 as an Open Access Pivot by Palgrave Macmillan.

In February this year, the Regional Studies Association hosted its third Australasian conference. The programme included a special session on publishing academic papers in regional studies, chaired by Sally Hardy. I was asked to contribute, and chose to speak on how publishing academic papers is not the only way to have research impact.

The motivation for my talk came from the example of a New Zealand academic economist, Professor Marilyn Waring. Waring’s life was changed forever in 1975 when at the age of 23 she was elected to the New Zealand Parliament as its youngest member, and as one of only two women on the government’s side of the House.

Waring was in Parliament for three terms, retiring in 1984. During those years, she campaigned for women’s rights and in defence of the natural environment (Waring, 2019). Waring also came to recognise that the United Nations System of National Accounts is inimical to both causes. She spent three years studying its boundary rules for calculating statistics such as gross domestic product, resulting in a book published in 1988.

That book has been hugely influential, and its ideas remain relevant in the modern day (Bjørnholt and McKay, 2014; Saunders and Dalziel, 2017). Indeed, Waring (2018) has very recently published a book showing thirty years later how current economic policy in New Zealand continues to undervalue the caring work of women and the intrinsic value of nature.

A feature of Waring’s research career is that she did not publish in academic journals, but instead sought to communicate directly to women about the consequences of what she labelled ‘applied patriarchy’ in economics. This included her books and participating in a Canadian film on her ideas, as well as accepting invitations to speak at conferences and other gatherings wherever she could. Her influence on a generation of postgrad students has been immense.

Figure 1. Marilyn Waring receiving the NZIER Economics Award

In 2014, Marilyn Waring received the prestigious NZIER Economics Award in honour of her work (pictured). The citation recognised that “there can be no doubt that the winner of the Award is a tireless, and brilliant, communicator of her arguments, and that she has been persuasive in drawing attention to problems and concepts that have been inadequately catered for in New Zealand and elsewhere”.

In my RSA presentation, I argued that Marilyn Waring’s example illustrates how academics can have social impact outside of the traditional measures of academic impact. I and a colleague develop that argument in a recent article (Dalziel and Saunders, 2018), in which we contrast Waring’s example with the scientific method outlined by philosophers such as Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn and Imre Lakatos. We use eight headings reproduced in the Table below.

Table 1. Social Impact on Research

The only common element is the research method commitment to rigorous testing. The traditional approach to science begins with the science community and ends with scientific impact. Marilyn Waring’s approach takes place within a social movement and has social impact. The traditional approach tests bold conjectures to develop prevailing paradigms within research programmes. Marilyn Waring’s approach is mission-led, drawing on multiple disciplines to address burning issues of the day.

In presenting this contrast, I do not suggest that one is more important than the other. My intention is to emphasise the importance of both approaches to creating knowledge and expanding human wellbeing. The Regional Studies Association has a strong record in encouraging both approaches to science (Hopkins, 2018). This is a legacy we should be proud to own.

Are you currently involved with regional research, policy, and development, and want to elaborate your ideas in a different medium? The Regional Studies Association is now accepting articles for their online blog. For more information, contact the Blog Editor at RSABlog@regionalstudies.org.

References

Bjørnholt, M. and McKay, A. (Eds) 2014. Counting on Marilyn Waring: New Advances in Feminist Economics, second edition. Bradford, ON: Demeter Press.

Dalziel, P. and Saunders, C. 2019. Gendered Innovations in Economics: Marilyn Waring’s Approach to Social Science Research, Women’s Studies International Forum, 72, 137-143.

Hopkins, J. 2018. Community, Impact, Leadership – 50 Years of the Regional Studies Association. London: Regional Studies Association.

Saunders, C. and Dalziel, P. 2017. 25 Years of Counting for Nothing: Waring’s Critique of National Accounts. Feminist Economics, 23(2), 200-218.

Waring, M. 1988. If Women Counted: A New Feminist Economics. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

Waring, M. 2018. Still Counting: Wellbeing, Women’s Work and Policy-making. Wellington: Bridget Williams Books.

Waring, M. 2019. Marilyn Waring: The Political Years. Wellington: Bridget Williams Books.