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Selwyn Ryan


The Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) was established in 1950 on the Mona Campus of The University of the West Indies. A branch was set up on the Cave Hill Campus in 1962, while the St. Augustine branch came into being in 1970. As the "research arm" of the Faculty of the Social Sciences, ISER's mission was to conduct research on the social, political and economic systems of the Caribbean region which would feed into the teaching programmes of the Faculty of the Social Sciences, as well as into the policy formulation and decision-making processes in the countries of the region. Since its inception, the Institute has fulfilled its task with distinction. It has endeavoured to fulfill its mandate by responding to the shifting needs and challenges in the region. It has provided basic and critical data on the social, political, economic, and demographic characteristics of the countries. It also focused particular attention on the development of appropriate theoretical paradigms and models for the region, and more recently took a critical in-depth look at specific sectors and issues such as technology and technology policy, the state, public enterprises, the nationalization of industrial and financial sectors, regional integration and tourism. In addition to these more general areas of work, the Institute has also done specific studies on topics such as Caribbean family systems, small states in the international system, the nature and functioning of mass political parties, trade unionism, entrepreneurship, race, gender and class in the region and the small farm economy and society. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it does provide an indication of the scope and variety of research activities in which ISER has been involved. Reports, books, monographs, papers, seminars and conferences have been generated by these activities, all of which have profoundly affected the public policy debate and policy-making in the region, as well as the teaching curriculum at the university level. During the last decade, there have been new developments and challenges in the region, and there have been increasing as well as more diversified demands on the research capabilities of the Institute. It therefore became necessary to look again at how best the Institute could seek to relate to, and address the needs of its "client groups" within, as well as outside the univerSity. To this end, ISER, with the aid of the Ford Foundation, undertook a ''Self Study" in 1993 as part of its continuing attempt to examine its role and function in a changing and dynamic social and economic environment. The need for this study was aiso stimulated by the perception that while ISER has produced a great deal of research relevant for the formulation of public policy, it was now necessary that this research be more explicitly policy-oriented, and that there be greater emphasis on the identification of innovative but viable policy options for the region. The growing demand for this can be seen in the increasing tendency for both govemmental and non-govemrnental agendes to enter into contractual relationships with agencies external to the region for the purposes of obtaining these kinds of analyses and information. However, it is clear that the depth and sensitivity of analysis required necessitates much greater involvement of regionally-based research institutions such as ISER.

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