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My Annual Review: 2019 A Year of Recognition and Transition

David Zilberman, professor, agriculture and resource economics | December 23, 2019

TelAviv beach

This last year was mostly a good year. Professionally, I gained a triple crown: I was awarded the Wolf prize for agriculture, became a member of the US National Academy of Sciences (USNAS), and became president of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA). My grandchildren are growing and Leorah and I are enjoying this stage of our lives.

The Wolf Prize is an international prize given by the Israeli president, so getting this recognition in Israel was a great experience for our family and friends who joined us. I’m looking forward to formally joining the USNAS this April. The AAEA presidency required much effort. The leadership of the association had to deal with the decision to move the Economic Research Service (ERS) from Washington. We hired a lobbyist and collaborated with other groups to try and change the decision, but to no avail. Now, we hope to maintain support to build a strong ERS in Kansas City and to maintain and expand support to economic research on agricultural and natural resources. I believe that we will be more successful. In an era when we realize that there is growing evidence of climate change and more concern about sustainable development, we need agencies that will provide objective information and knowledge.

family at Wolf

In addition to addressing the ERS Challenge, we engaged in other activities aimed to strengthen the AAEA. As we became concerned that income from our journals may decline in the future, we decided to encourage contributions and donations to support the activities of the association and to celebrate members through appreciation clubs. AAEA leadership also established mechanisms to strengthen our community.  We continue the Mentoring Program, which matches senior and younger members. We also held a mentoring workshop where young faculty members gain insight into publishing, managing their careers, and some of the significant research challenges of agricultural and resource economics.

with colleagues

This was a year of transition. I noticed that none of the faculty members that were active when I joined are still on the faculty. Unfortunately, Peter Berck passed away this year, and we are establishing an appreciation club in his memory. Alain de Janvry and Betty Sadoulet retired two years ago, even though they continue to be very active as professors of the graduate school. And recently, I learned that Gordon Rausser decided to become a professor of the graduate school as well. I find the department is changing, and I am encouraged by the quality of the publications and creativity of some of the younger faculty, their dedication in pursuit of new data sources, and the capacity to analyze them masterfully, but I am concerned that we are losing some of our uniqueness. I got my award for multidisciplinary work incorporating biophysical and institutional considerations to economic decision-making frameworks for the management of water, pest control, biotechnology, biofuel, and technology choice. This analysis was on producers’, consumers’ choices as well as government choices and required multidisciplinary collaboration and learning of the basic principles developed by other scientific and technical fields. I worry that, while people preach multidisciplinary, young faculty members at least in Berkeley, are more looking to excel as economists while putting less weight on understanding the technological and institutional processes we need to understand and affect. Some of it is because of the growing emphasis on publication in top-5 journals in economics, which has been recently criticized as the curse of the top five.I believe that there is greater homogeneity in the economic profession, and we may lose diversity and the ability to connect with other disciplines and influences.

 

While many of my generation have retired, I continue to stay on faculty. I enjoy my new work on supply chains, changes in the energy sector (with the EBI), and the economics of the transforming bio-economy (with IGI). This year we will celebrate 20 years of the BEAHRS ELPpadua, and we have gone through a review for the master of development practice (MDP). The reviews were positive, but raised concerns about where our permanent home will be. Will the College of Natural Resources use us as a cornerstone for establishing world-class professional master degree programs, or will we join the School of Public Policy? In any case, I will not retire before I know and can ensure a sustainable future for the MDP.

This year I also started realizing my age. I fell trying to jump over a small fence while moving furniture, and for about two weeks, I looked like the loser of a boxing match against Muhammed Ali. Fortunately, I recovered, and I am enjoying our new and improved house. I really enjoyed the ability to meet our children and grandchildren, who are spread all over in New York, Fayetteville, and Seattle. Modern miracles like airplanes and Skype bring us together even when we are living apart. While our immediate family is thriving, this year we lost some dear relatives and friends. Lori Carrol, the mother of our daughter-in-law Leigh, passed away. Leorah and I loved Lori and we were saddened and shocked by her passing. My cousin, Rachel Saad, passed at the age of 85 a few weeks after I met her celebrating the Wolf Prize. She was a cornerstone of our family in Israel and it proved that being an old person doesn’t prevent you from being an active and dynamic contributor. I’m looking forward to the next year and wishing all of you, our nations and the global community a great 2020.Shanghai

Comments to “My Annual Review: 2019 A Year of Recognition and Transition

  1. Dear David,
    Thanks for sharing the thoughtful end-of-year reflections and encouraging folks to think critically about the importance of multi-disciplinary work.
    All the best,
    Victoria Pebbles (ELP 2012)

  2. David is ever active person that you don’t need to see physically before you enjoy his input in academics. Ready to make positive impact always on developmental issues and this is the secret of your success. Wishing you long life and many years to come.

  3. Happy New Year! I have read this piece like with a smile as I always do with all your letters and articles. Masterful, excellent, in-depth, analytical, and humor mixed. I am still trying to master this style. Congratulations on all your achievements. I am glad that MDP and BEAHRS ELP are still on your mind and that you and the team will come up with a sustainable pathway for both programs. As a beneficiary of the BEAHRS ELP, I cannot emphasize how important this means to not only me but to the hundreds of BEAHRS ELP Fellows who have benefited and continue to benefit from your tutorship. Finally, I am glad for the mentorship initiative for young intellectuals and researchers in the field of agricultural and resource economics.

    Happy New Year of Excellent Health and Happiness.

  4. Best wishes for the new year! Congratulations on all your well deserved awards. You are truly a leader in our field. Thank you for all your work to help our profession.

  5. I have looked at you as my model after knowing you in Environmental Leadership Program [ELP 2007] in University of California, Berkeley. You inspired me at my early career stage. Congratulation for winning the great award. Keep the spirit strong as you work to make the world a better place.

  6. Dear Professor Zilberman,

    Congratulations!

    You deserve the best!!

    Enjoy your beautiful life!!!

    With kindest regards,

    Lissandro

  7. Dear David,
    Greetings from balmy Michigan, the warmest December here in 37 years.
    Thanks for the thoughtful annual letter. First of all, congrats on the several well-deserved recognitions of your contributions to our field and to society. Second, it was interesting to read your thoughts on where the profession is heading. We are of course a heterodox group and it is good that at least some in our field are continuing to aim for the top five and excel in the discipline of economics — we need to be able to communicate and link to those driving the economics field. But I couldn’t agree more that the lifeblood of our applied/ag/NR economics is to provide a deep understanding the interactions of technological and institutional processes in the world and to be in a position to inform and guide public understanding as well as policy debates. This requires a balance of the two elements — some of our departments may be on either side of that balance. Third, I still appreciate your straightforward and honest review of our department some 20 years ago as part of our strategic review, which profoundly influenced decisions made internally, and which between then and now contributed to a marked increase in MSU’s ranking.
    Stay well and greetings to your family.
    TSJ

  8. Dear David, happy Hanukkah to you and your family. As alway great to read your annual review- so inspiring . Congratulations on your achievements in so many fronts . Best wishes Yossi.

  9. Dear David,

    What a great year of well-deserved recognition for your tremendous contributions! An inspiration and incentive to us all to keep moving forward. Thanks for sharing this and for you collaboration in keeping our thinking on these important issues and questions clear and focused.

    Best,

    Glenn

  10. Dear Professor Zilberman,
    I would like to congratulate you for this so wonderful year. We are proud of you.
    I wish you and family a very Happy New Year and look forward to welcome you to Vietnam.
    Best regards,

    Duong Thanh An, ELP 2008
    Vice President,
    Vietnam Institute of Policy and Strategy on Natural Resources and Environment
    Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment

  11. Dear David,
    Congratulations for being through 2019 very successfully and for a eventful year of your life.
    You are a great source of inspiration for those who keep doing great work and contribute
    positively in their chosen field of work. I wish you all the best in your endeavors in 2020 and
    happy holidays to you and your family.

  12. Dear David,

    Ruth and I wish you and your family a very happy Holiday Season! While you have shared many of your activities with us through the year, it’s so nice to read about your year-in-review. and see the photos in this blog. The image of you and Gordon in your respective tuxes is priceless! I also share your sentiment regarding the future of the MDP. If there is anything I can do to help, please let me know.

    Take good care and we will see you in 2020!

    Best,

    Mike

  13. Dear David:

    Mazel tov on all your accomplishments and I wish you and your family Season’s Greetings!

    Best regards,

    Amit Batabyal

  14. Dear David,

    Always enjoyed reading your reviews, blogs, and op-eds. Congratulations for receiving the Wolf Prize. Pleased to know that your growing family is also doing very well.

    Wish you and your family a happy holiday season.

    Shenggen

  15. David, happy holidays! It was great to catch up a bit in Boston this year; sorry we haven’t seen more of each other lately. Best wishes for the new year to you, Leorah, and all you love.

  16. Dear David,
    what a nice review. So many achievements. I am concerned as well about the decrease in multidisciplinarity. We can still do something about. it. Let’ s continue in 2020.
    All the best,
    Justus

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