CSDS provides a focal point for field-based research on the political economy of development at Columbia University. The core focus will be on field experimental approaches, micro studies and empirical work with strong identification strategies that address topics on democracy and governance, peacebuilding, and aid effectiveness.

Many of the research projects underway at the center involve partnerships between researchers and development agencies. There is now great potential for research of this form for a number of reasons.  One is that there has been a rise in the interest and willingness of development practitioners to strengthen the evidence base of development practice. Policymakers, funding agencies, and implementing organizations are increasingly focused on identifying the most effective strategies for promoting development. Another is that social scientists interested in the politics of economic development are increasingly recognizing the linkages between policy questions and questions of a more general social scientific nature. There has, in addition, been a new recognition that experimental methods, though they cannot be used for all questions of interest to social scientists, can be used to address a wide range of basic questions. Our hope is that CSDS will play  a role in fostering these linkages, identifying and supporting strong research teams, developing and sharing best practice methodologies,  and helping to disseminate key findings emanating from this work.