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Competition in Science Just Like in Sports

Our guest today is the young scientist Raufkhon Salahodjaev who has made it to be named one of the world’s best young economists over the past five years.

The news of his inclusion in the list of top hundred young economics scientists of the world urged the UT to acquaint the readers with the Uzbek who has glorified his homeland.

“Please tell us a bit about yourself.”
“I was born in the town of Kasansay, Namangan region, in 1987. I obtained the first higher education in Tashkent Institute of Finance majoring in Finances and Economics. A year later, I won an Edmund Muskie scholarship, often referred to as the Fulbright Fellowship, and earned master's degree in economics at the New York State University.

If you ask about me from my teachers in the Institute of Finance, many of them probably will tell you that I was mediocre, and furthermore, it would seem incredible for them to learn about my inclusion in the list of a hundred best young scientists and economists in the world. Because I was an average student who, like everyone else, wanted more spare time for other activities. I did not have a clue that I will ever do science.

“What is the topic of your thesis?”
“It was on the study of the impact of US healthcare compensation programs on the duration of work-related injuries. For American students it is a common theme.”

“But very unusual and sensational was the news of your inclusion in the top list of RePEc. What are its selection criteria?”
“Science is an area where, just like in sports, there is competition. Accordingly, there has been a need in rankings. The latter is a term referred to in sorting sites in the search results used in search engines.

“This is done in order to make sure that the quantity did not prevail over quality, but that the quality and quantity equally dominated over other aspects. Well, there was a demand for the ranking of the countries, universities and scientists by sphere, age and gender. Given the number of issued magazines around the world, the activities of economists is very difficult to monitor. And the question is as to what journal or other outlet your articles are published. It's one thing if you have published in the journal where 30 articles compete for one space, and totally other thing if the periodical has a competition one by one. This is dealt with by Thomson Reuters, who has created her own so-called "impact factor", which is considered a benchmark in the world of science. It determines the prestige of the journal. It is very difficult to get into the rating of Thomson Reuters as publications are subject to rigorous screening. But if a scientist publishes his/her piece in the selected edition, they can greatly enhance their credibility on the world stage.

In the US Federal Bank of St. Louis there is an economic research department, which tracks not only publications, but also scientists whose work is published there, who are the most quoted and downloaded. And on this basis, they form a list of the best economists. That is a complex, multi-step process.”

“What area of economics is explored in your publications?”
“There is a stereotypical view that economics is the study of a country or a phenomenon, but the Western scientific school has a different approach. There economics is not limited to studying only something practical, and often in order for your article to be published in a prestigious journal, on the contrary, you have to ignore practice and engage in theory. For example, you do not just study inflation, and may have found an explanation to existing phenomena and events in the world from an entirely new perspective. In this sense, some of my articles are not applicable today, because I'm doing a new trend – explanation of the current trends, such as income inequality around the world, with the position of evolutionary biology, psychology or geography. Many are now turning to me with a variety of issues, for example, to find answers to the problem of creating sustainable jobs and increasing exports. But I have to say that my research has developed in a completely different vein, and that is why I am published in leading academic journals.”

“It turns out that your works are at the junction of two sciences, doesn’t it?”
“Yes, in my works, the fundamental economics is closely intertwined with the theory of evolutionary processes. Therefore I doubt that, after reading my article, you can apply it right away to solve some urgent problems of our times. My works by and large cover s fundamental aspects for promoting understanding of the phenomena, but from another angle, in the light of the development of society throughout the world, in terms of biogeography.”

“Please be more specific.”
“I shall refer to the basics. Previously, economics used to be a pretty selfish science. If you listen to Western scholars, it becomes clear that many of the processes they tried to explain in the mathematical model developed by them. For example, if you published a few decades ago, then the economy was explained in terms of differential equations in a closed system. But over time, the researchers concluded that economic processes can not be studied within only one limited scope of this science. And the economy has come to be studied more widely.”

“Apparently, it is a trend now, and not only among economists. You've probably heard about the acclaimed book of contemporary Israeli writer, "A Brief History of Mankind", which attempts to cover everything that the beings of the species Homo sapiens have been engaged in since their inception and until the creation of computers?”

“In fact, the trend has become popular today to explain many of the problems, going back to ancient times – to 500 years, 1,000 and even 10,000 years back, and look, for example, the cause of income inequality is not in the current problems, and in processes that occured 10-20 thousand years ago. In particular, my research focuses on the new theory that a handful of people in the world are engaged in, together we began to implement it in economic thought. It's called "The theory of pathogenic stress" and shows the connection between the level of risk of infectious diseases in ancient times to the formation of society. That is, those countries where the risk was high became more closed, there was a team spirit, and the countries where these diseases are spared, for example, in North America, Europe, they developed more individualistic. Accordingly, different societies created different economic institutions for themselves. No one has tried to explain such processes thus far. For example, biologists have studied how parasites affect the development of society, but they do not project it on the economic processes. And we are trying to find the origins of many of today's problems in ancient times and show it mathematically in terms of world statistics. Given this innovative approach, many foreign editions are very sympathetic to our work. And most interesting is that our research is taken by the biologists with great pleasure, as we start it from their theories and project their findings on the economy.”

“You probably have plans for a doctoral thesis. What subject will you choose?”
“I can state with my hand on heart that in the next five years I intend to continue working in this direction. And because the life cycle of writing a research work is extended to two years, it turns out, if you defend a doctoral degree in a new direction, its peak of citation will be achieved only in 10-20 years.”

“Thank you for a fascinating conversation.”
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