Thursday, 23 May 2013

Not so hothouse research

Hello. My name is Kostas Economides and I am a lecturer in the Department of Economics at the University of the South of England (USE for short). Well, actually that is not true really as the names of individuals and institutions in this blog have been changed to protect the innocent - and the guilty!

From a Faculty perspective the Hothouse research day was not really a success. Only about twenty people turned up. There were just six from our department: me, Mike, Gus, Tony, Jack and Sian. Richard, along with many people from other departments, said that he had far too much marking still to do and he couldn't spare the time. Whoever thought that arranging such a research day in the middle of the exam period was obviously not doing any teaching. Similar complaints had been made from people in other departments. Others said that they just hadn't had time to get set up for the day with possible topics and collaborators for their research. Only one person from the accounting department came to the session. Gus told me afterwards that Mike was quite happy since he would be able to point this out to the Dean, stressing how engaged our department has been with her plans, compared with other parts of the faculty.

Geoff Baxter was there though, and so I was personally able to satisfy Mike, Tony and the Dean that I had found a potential research topic to work on with someone in another department. Geoff had been in touch with his contact at Waitrose and the initial response had been that the company might be willing to sponsor a study of English wine, provided they could also make use of it in their weekend magazine and their advertising. Geoff said that we would need to put together a formal proposal that would be considered by Head Office. It was likely that we would also be asked to produce a paper on a related topic, namely wine tourism. This would be the main source of material for Waitrose's marketing group. In many other wine producing countries wine tourism is big business. One only has to think of what happens in different parts of France, especially the Rhone valley. You can see it too in the Nappa Valley in the US or in the Western Cape in South Africa. That side of things was relatively undeveloped in the UK and Geoff wondered if we might bring someone in from the marketing subject group to help on that. He had found a paper on developing wine tourism in England in the 2008 Journal of Vacation Marketing but he reckoned there was now scope for an update, perhaps looking at some other countries for comparative purposes.

Geoff thought there might also be scope for a paper on the development of the online wine business, both through supermarkets and from other suppliers such as Laithwaites and the Naked Wine company. A number of newspapers, such as the Times, the Telegraph and the Guardian also had reader offers for cases of wine. Another development which we might look at is the growing influence of China in wine production, consumption and vineyard ownership. Geoff said that China is now the fourth largest export market for burgundy behind Japan, Britain and the US.He had also seen a report that in 2011 Chinese buyers had bought 21 vineyards and 23 Chateaux in Bordeaux alone.

I have also been looking at recent contributions to the literature on hedonic price models. One issue which we would need to take on board would be the potential simultaneous equation bias of any single equation models that include jointly dependent variables such as quality and reputation. Recent papers have used Two Stage Least Squares rather than simple single equation Ordinary Least Squares to estimate the models.

So, we spent the rest of the time at the hothouse session putting together a bid for Waitrose to look at, confining ourselves now to wine tourism and hedonic price models. This research could be a lot of fun!

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