Sunday, December 25, 2022

Member Blog: David Zilberman

My Annual Review 2022

David Zilberman, professor, agriculture and resource economics | December 20, 2022

In 2022, I returned to some normality. First, I traveled more. I had a wonderful trip, including Lithuania, Italy, and Israel. We had a great conference in Bologna; I enjoyed Cinque Terre and seeing my sister and relatives warmed my heart. Later in the year, I had a great trip to Argentina, combining research, tourism, and soccer. Watching Argentina win the World Cup today was especially exciting as I became a Messi fan after visiting his homeland only a week before! Attendance at professional meetings and classes has returned almost to pre-COVID levels. With the pandemic subsiding, we could be with our kids more often. All of them came to our house and enjoyed our remodeled home. The circular steps were a big hit with the grandchildren, and after this ambitious project, we enjoy living in our home resort and harvesting our tomatoes, apples, and figs. Thankfully, this was a good year. Our grandchildren are growing and developing – I feel my age. The days when I could compete with my grandchildren at basketball are fading.

I expect Zoom to be a permanent part of our lives, and I no longer expect to be on campus every day. I enjoy working at home part of the week, walking the dogs with Leorah, and coming to campus when I need to be there. Actually, this adjustment has made me much more productive. Even before the pandemic, most of the time, the offices in Giannini were empty, and scouring big libraries for multiple reprints became passé as we became more digitized. This may offer opportunities to redesign and increase the efficient use of space on campuses, exchanging inanimate archival space for social space, especially important for students.Lithuania

This year was a transition for the Master of Development Practice (MDP). We moved administratively from the Rausser College of Natural Resources (RCNR) to the Goldman Public Policy School, a better fit programmatically. The education of professional Masters students is a mission for Goldman, and I realize how important their experience and skills can be to our students and alums. The school has emphasized domestic issues, and now we can offer a global reach. Having said this, we remain a campus-wide graduate group in spirit and intellectual reach. We will benefit from the expertise and capacity of RCNR and other units on campus that share our interest in Sustainable Development. One of the secrets of Berkeley’s success is that we collaborate within the campus, benefitting both our students and our own research with the incomparable resources at Berkeley. In addition to institutional transition, we have had personnel changes. Our long-serving MDP director George Scharffenberger has retired. The direction of the program and much of our success have been due to his initiatives and dedication. He inspired me to understand international development activities’ practical and moral importance, and I learned what a development practitioner should be. Fortunately, he helped our transition, and I’m quite happy that Michelle Reddy, our new Program Director, and Kristal Zimmerman, our Career Services Officer, have rich development experience. Their ideas and enthusiasm will make the program even better.


I’m more excited than ever about research! Still learning as I go, I realize there are two directions of research that I will pursue, and that may make a difference. The first is focusing on innovation and supply chains as major elements that drive the economy. Traditionally, economics emphasizes the role of markets, immensely important, but in a modern relies on innovation as well as allocation, and innovations are implemented through supply chains. Whoever designs a supply chain might establish institutions like markets, contracts, and other arrangements for trading. So, if you want to address problems like climate change, which will require drastic technological changes, you need to stimulate innovation that will be upscaled and propagated by supply chains. I’m still learning the literature on supply chains and am fortunate to collaborate with scholars who laid the foundation for much of it, including Tom Reardon, Jo Swinnen, and Chris Barrett. Functionally, an economy is comprised of symbiotic supply chains that evolve over time. Some supply chains generate new innovations, while others implement and diffuse them. In the future, I want to understand better the evolution and workings of different supply chains and how policies (government support for research, intellectual property rights, regulations, and antitrust policies) can facilitate innovations that advance more sustainable and inclusive prosperity.

Another area that I’m interested in is the bioeconomy. The bioeconomy consists of sectors of the economy that rely on natural resources and take advantage of new capabilities in life sciences. The discovery of the DNA and modern biology provide opportunities to improve food productivity, fight climate change (biofuels), improve public health (new medicines), and much more. However, the promise of the bioeconomy is far from being fulfilled,  in part because of regulation, policy, attitudes, etc. The bioeconomy has always been with us (think brewing, cheese, and fermented foods), but its scientific era is just beginning, with continuous support from research, sound regulation, and appropriate incentives; I know that the bioeconomy can play a major role in carbon sequestration, adaptation to climate change, improving food security, and other critical challenges to humanity, and I hope to produce research that will help this happen. Of course, development in the bioeconomy will require the clever design of supply chains, so these two lines of research are linked. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to work on issues of water, agricultural policies, food and health, and others, so I expect to be an active researcher as long as can contribute. While I may consider retiring from teaching in the next year or two, allowing for more travel and collaboration. I not only want to see more of my dispersed family, but very much enjoy being a Hagler Fellow at Texas A&M, and my research efforts and contribution to MDP will continue and actually may intensify.

Personally, I’m hopeful for 2023 despite many clouds and uncertainties on the horizon. I’m looking forward to a great holiday and hope to meet and enjoy time with many of our friends in the coming year. Happy 2023.



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