Highly cited economist tackles pandemic forecasting with new models, datasets

In November each year, we celebrate the exceptional performance of some of the most cited researchers on the planet. Our Highly Cited Researchers™ 2020 announcement is fast approaching, and in anticipation of this prestigious event, we reached out to some of the influential researchers named in previous years.


In this interview, we speak with Paresh Narayan, a leading economist from Deakin University, Australia. Paresh has been named a Highly Cited Researcher for his pioneering work in applied econometrics and financial markets. His current research focuses on the financial implication of COVID-19, and building up new models and datasets for pandemics in general.


Tell us how you came to be a researcher in your field/discipline?

Growing up in a small country (Fiji) where policy research was weak, motivated me to do research to understand the unknowns. I therefore explored a broad range of research to improve my own knowledge on numerous issues, from economic growth to tourism and financial systems.

At Deakin University, I was provided a leadership role to engage in innovative thinking and research that makes a difference to people both in Australia and globally. I then set up a research center, Centre for Financial Econometrics (CFE), a unique center by name and aim. The CFE is the first research center in Australia to focus on financial econometrics and applied finance. We have done pioneering work in developing different models to forecast financial markets, understanding pricing behavior and implications of statistical models for practical purposes.


How does it feel to be one of the most cited authors on the planet?  

My work has been cited heavily for the last 12 years. I have received a large volume of communications from researchers globally. I have also had lot of interest from prospective students. With CFE, the impact of my work grew exponentially because we did and do work that mattered to other researchers and to industry needs. I am invited to many institutions (including central banks) to present my work and facilitate workshops. I give 6-8 keynote addresses at international conferences every year. Given the following of my work, it was not surprising to be named a Highly Cited Researcher, but is a great feeling to have this tag and global acknowledgement of my work.


Why is your research important – how do you see it changing the world?

My research focuses on developing and applying models to real world data. It is not only researchers who need models to understand and analyze data with precision, policy makers need those same models to guide their policy making. Our models on forecasting, for instance, are in global use both by academic researchers and policy makers. Forecasting is an important part of daily policy making. Having good quality forecasts are integral to decision making, including resource allocations.

My work has also emphasized the role of structural breaks (shocks) in the economy and the precision with which one should estimate such shocks. We have developed models that extract structural breaks in macroeconomic data with precision, which are then used in decision making.

Overall, my research contribution aims to understand the economy better by making best use of statistical tools; whether it be from the point of view of forecasting, understanding pricing behavior, or identifying shocks and addressing them through policy response. These matter to both academic researchers and policy makers, helping them to devise appropriate corrective policy decisions.

Equally importantly, the econometrics models we have developed are now being applied to study implications of the COVID-19 pandemic. My current research, together with that of my team of collaborators, focuses heavily on understanding not only the implications of COVID-19 but of pandemics and epidemics in general. I believe I will be able to create a body of literature on pandemics over the next 3-5 years which will serve the profession well. Our research aims to develop new models, create new datasets and test the relevance of existing hypotheses and theories to understand the implications of pandemics.


“I believe I will be able to create a body of literature on pandemics over the next 3-5 years which will serve the profession well. This research aims to develop new models, create new datasets, and test the relevance of existing hypotheses and theories to understand the implications of pandemics.”


Why does your research matter and in what ways does it impact the general public?  

I am working with various institutions (industry) to see how best our models can help them address their policy concerns. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we can help to inform policy planning by evaluating the relevance of existing models and developing new models as needed.

A large part of my industry-related work is about (a) forecasting, something which is of direct relevance to industry (from central banks to policy making institutions) and (b) econometric modelling, something which has inspired academic research globally. My PhD students work in both industry and academia. Those working in industry are at the cutting-edge of policy making. Therefore, my work, through my PhD students, is indirectly contributing to public policy, which is very satisfying.


What impact will being listed on the Highly Cited Researcher list have on your future work or professional career?

It will hopefully help us build more  and faster connections with industry. I am excited by what our models and work in general can offer to industry by way of solutions. The quicker and faster we move and work with industry, the better we can demonstrate the impact of our work to the societies and economies we represent. I am also excited by this recognition as a Highly Cited Researcher because it keeps one’s critics at bay and allows one to progress research without hindrance. This is important particularly if you want to maintain the Highly Cited Researcher status over a long term.


What advice would you give to new and emerging researchers/scientists?


“When devising your research ideas think about its contribution and impact. Ask: who will cite this research?”


The research concept has changed. Publishing papers in credible journals is important, but if no one is reading those papers and citing them then the implication is that it is not relevant research. Research should be something that others read and cite. When devising your research ideas, think about its contribution and impact. Ask: who will cite this research?


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