Request for research proposals
Economic Transformation Database

UNU-WIDER is seeking proposals for original research on the Economic Transformation Database (ETD) project. Proposals from individuals (or groups of individuals) as well as non-profit organizations are welcome. Submission deadline: 31 January 2022, 23:59 UTC+2

United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) is requesting research proposals on the Economic Transformation Database (ETD) project. This project aims to better understand structural transformation—how it varies, why it varies, and what the implications of this might be—and to offer new frameworks that provide insight into how to address it. This will generate new knowledge on how developing economies, in particular low-income ones, can achieve sustainable, inclusive development. Proposals for original research that speak to the core themes of this project and offer strong empirical, methodological, or theoretical contributions will be considered.

Changes in the sectoral structure of the economy shape growth and poverty reduction. Historically, the reallocation of workers from traditional to modern activities has driven improvements in living standards. When resources shift from low-productivity to high-productivity activities, aggregate productivity increases. Structural change often involves the emergence and expansion of new industries that can contribute to better jobs and improved livelihoods.

To support research efforts and informed policy making, UNU-WIDER partnered with the Groningen Growth and Development Centre (GGDC) of the University of Groningen to construct the GGDC/UNU-WIDER Economic Transformation Database (ETD). The ETD provides time series of employment and real and nominal value added annually by 12 sectors in 51 economies in Africa, Asia, and Latin America for the period 1990–2018. The latest version of the ETD was released on 15 July 2021.

The project mainly helps to monitor the progress made in achieving SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth. The ETD, a global public good, may also be instrumental to policy makers’ ability to analyse the role that structural change can play in achieving other SDGs. 

We seek to encourage research using the ETD to provide novel insights on key questions related to various topics, including (but not limited to):

  •  Empirical and theoretical analyses of the patterns and drivers of structural change globally, as well as in specific regions or countries.
  • The industrialization experience of a country or group of countries in recent decades.
  • The relation between growth, poverty reduction, and sectoral patterns of employment and production.
  • Whether countries can achieve growth, provide good jobs, and reduce poverty without industrialisation.
  • Whether modern agriculture and modern services serve as an alternative mechanism of structural transformation and economic growth.

Innovative proposals to improve the quality and quantity of information in the ETD are encouraged, to make the most of the data on sectoral employment and production to analyse patterns of structural transformation. 

We seek to commission research papers from researchers working in growth and economic development and related fields who would like to contribute to the project. As part of the project, researchers will be asked to take part in an online workshop tentatively scheduled for November 2022.

Offer and expectations

UNU-WIDER invites proposals from qualified researchers for papers examining structural transformation broadly. Following formal acceptance and initial publication in the WIDER Working Papers Series, the aim is to have these papers published in high-quality journals or books in economics, political science, development studies, or related fields. The papers must be written in English and should be around 10,000 words (inclusive of text, tables, figures, boxes, footnotes, references, etc.—further information is found here). 

Proposals from individuals (or groups of individuals) as well as non-profit organizations are welcome. Applications from women and developing country researchers are particularly encouraged. 

Read the full announcement for more information.

Evaluation process and criteria

Each proposal will be reviewed for scientific merit and feasibility. Proposals will be selected on the basis of three criteria: (i) relevance to the research project, (ii) strength of theoretical, methodological, or empirical contribution, and (iii) clarity of writing.
Only the final decision on whether to fund the proposal or not will be communicated to applicants. Applicants must not expect feedback on their proposals.

Proposed timeline
1 December 2021  Publication of request for research proposals
15 January 2022 Final opportunity for questions on the request for research proposals 
31 January 2022 Proposal submission deadline
28 February 2022   Target date for informing on decisions
25 October 2022  Target date for submission of first drafts of papers 
November 2022   Online project workshop (exact date TBD)
30 January 2023  Target date for submission of final papers
Proposal submission details
  1. Proposals for papers authored by one or multiple scholars will be considered. The proposal shall include: (1) an up-to-date CV for each author; and (2) an extended abstract of 500–1500 words that summarizes the research question, data, and proposed methods for the analysis in sufficient detail to warrant an evaluation.
  2. Submission of proposals is done electronically by using the online application form on the RFRP announcement page. There are three forms to select from: one for individuals, another for groups of individuals, and a third for non-profit organizations. Details (such as address, gender, nationality, date of birth) of all researchers involved are to be entered onto the form. Please familiarize yourself with the form in advance.
  3. Submission of a budget is not required for the proposal.
  4. Any questions on the proposal process should be sent to by 15 January 2022. Selected queries and responses will be published on the RFRP announcement page, on a rolling basis.