From data to policy: building microdata infrastructure for research in MENA - Economic Research Forum (ERF)

From data to policy: building microdata infrastructure for research in MENA

From data to policy: building microdata infrastructure for research in MENA

By Aalaa Halaka

“Data for research is like roads for a city, where you have to build a road despite not knowing who’s going to use the road and where they’re going to go with it. It’s exactly the same with data; that in advance we can not tell what specific research projects will come out, but it’s absolutely essential if research are going to do work that is cutting-edge and relevant from both an academic and a policy points of view.”


The second day of ERF’s 25th annual conference featured a special session titled “From Data to Policy: Rewarding Partnership with Statistics Centers in the Region”, where the panelists highlighted the importance of making microdata available for researchers to produce research that is evidence-based and policy-relevant.


Dr Ragui Assaad -professor at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, and thematic leader for Labor and Human Resource Development at the ERF, emphasized the ERF’s role in building data infrastructure in the MENA region, through long standing collaboration with national statistical offices across the region. Dr Assaad is the father of the Labor Market Panel Surveys (LMPSs), that he has been designing and implementing in different MENA countries since 1998. All rounds of the LMPSs are implemented in collaboration with national statistical offices. The data is cleaned and harmonized in-house, and made publicly available to researchers on ERF’s data portal.



The (un)availability of quality microdata has been, and continues to be one of the major challenges to producing cutting-edge research to advice policy making in the region. To that end, the ERF is committed to availing data to researchers through its Open Access Micro Data Initiative (OAMDI), first launched in April 2013 to make micro data available to researchers. OAMDI provides access to both household- and firm-level datasets, in addition to Labor Market Panel Surveys. ERF hopes to extend this collaboration to host data from more countries of the region, for the benefit of promoting evidence-based policy making.


The Economic Research Forum’s 25th Annual Conference is held in Kuwait City, on 10-12 March, 2019, under the theme of Knowledge, Research Networks, and Development Policy. . Visit the conference website to find out more about the event and access papers, videos and blogs.