Far along the Scores, deep within the charming walls of Castlecliffe, resides Dr. Paul Gerard Egan. Dr. Egan, an associate lecturer, joined the School of Economics and Finance in January 2015 after completing his PhD in economics at the University of Limerick in Ireland.
In addition to giving lectures, Dr. Egan is an avid researcher. Just after completing his Master’s in international finance, Dr. Egan worked in the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) in Dublin. However, he had always wanted to pursue his own independent research. So, he quit his job and applied for an Irish Research Council Scholarship to pursue a PhD, studying the dynamics of the Chinese macroeconomy.
Dr. Egan first became interested in the Chinese economy after taking a module as an undergraduate, which looked at China’s exchange rate and global current account imbalances. China is transitioning from a centrally-planned into a more market-based economy, and it was intriguing for Dr. Egan to look at the different changes in policy from 1978 to 2014 to measure their impact on inflation and output. He was particularly fascinated by the influence of People’s Bank of China, as well as the role that inflation rate and monetary policies played.
This past May, Dr. Egan published two papers on the financial markets in China. They examined the relationship between oil prices and Chinese stocks across different sectors, “As Chinese markets become more mature and integrated into the real economy, understanding how they work becomes more important — both for investors and policy makers in terms of financial stability,” Dr. Egan described. Since publishing the two research papers, he is now in the process of finishing a paper which examines price dynamics across Chinese provinces and has also started a paper looking at the issue of financial stability in China.
As a researcher who studies the Chinese economy, Dr. Egan believes that the task comes with challenges. On the research side, available data was not always straightforward and transparent. On the theoretical side, because the Chinese economy is so different, given its size and its account balance, there is great effort required to adjust traditional macro models to take into consideration these variables. The challenge that Dr. Egan enjoys tackling, however, is transforming qualitative into quantitative data. He would first analyze the former, such as the policies that the Chinese Central Bank used and its relations to the local industries, then use filter to extract these data somehow. There are times when certain variables cannot be quantified, so speaking to people becomes necessary. Dr. Egan recalls visiting in China in 2014 to set up interviews with officials and journalists to get a second opinion.
When asked about his postgraduate years, Dr. Egan shared that such opportunity enabled him to gain a much more detailed overview of the subject. Aside from the research skills that got sharpened, Dr. Egan found that studying specific angles of economics opened up a lot of doors in terms of careers, whether that be going into the private sector, public policy or academia. He chose the latter because it gave him the opportunity to teach and the freedom to pursue whatever research suits his interests.
According to Dr. Egan, researching something you are interested in or passionate about really doesn’t feel like work. He normally goes about conducting a study by reading something of interest in a news story or coming across something interesting in an academic article or policy paper. From there, collecting data will depend on the research question. Egan usually uses Chinese macro data, which is available through the National Bureau of Statistics. For stock price data, he uses Wind (a provider of Chinese financial data). Alternatively, he sometimes uses other sources or attempt to construct other indices based on data already available.
Dr. Egan’s advice to students interested in research? He believes that it is extremely important to find someone you are compatible with because research projects can be time-consuming. Collaborations can come about in many ways. For example, the co-authors Dr. Egan worked with in the past were his PhD supervisor and researchers in Chain that he met when he was a visiting researcher at Tongji University in Shanghai back in 2014.
There are different ways in which research can be funded, and there are specific bodies that fund economic research. It is essential to create solid proposal and have it reviewed by someone who has experience with the process. The important thing, however, is to decide what area you are most interested in and identify a possible supervisor/mentor in that area. For Dr. Egan, his interest lies truly in macroeconomics and monetary policy, especially in the case of the Chinese economy. Dr. Egan claims, “The exciting thing is that there has never been a more interesting time to study these topics!”