Cormac O'Dea

Cormac O'Dea

Senior Research Economist, Consumption and Saving Research Programme

Education:

MPhil Economics, University of Cambridge
BA Economics, Trinity College Dublin

What attracted you to IFS in the first place?

 

The main attraction to me was the fact that the IFS straddled two worlds: the public policy one and the academic one. Both of these interested me, so a work environment that combined the two seemed ideal.

 

Which projects are you working on at the moment?

 

I'm working on a number of projects at the moment. One looks at how different types of state pension systems affect the savings behaviour of individuals; another investigates the extent to which household wealth levels have been affected by the financial crisis and yet another looks at whether those currently approaching the State Pension Age have saved adequately for their retirement.

With most of my projects – the aim is to get the research published in peer-reviewed academic publications – the same aim that university academics have with their research. This, combined with the overall goal of the IFS to influence UK policy debate for the better means that on all projects the focus is to produce research that is rigorously-thought through and relevant to policy.

 

What kind of things do you do during a typical day at work?

 

My day-to-day research primarily involves using statistical computer packages to analyse data and writing up results either by myself or with colleagues. In addition a number of times a week, I attend seminars given by internal and external speakers. These are a very useful way of getting to know about research agendas in areas other than those which I'm working in, and also of learning new analytical techniques. At an intermediate stage in a research project I will present it to both internal (at in-house seminars) and external audiences (at conferences).

 

What do you particularly enjoy about the job?

 

I enjoy the challenge. In the case of most of the research we do, there is no standard straightforward, method of doing it, so a great deal independent thinking is required. The work we do often gets quite a bit of attention from the media and from policymakers. After a long time working on a particular piece of research – it is nice to know that it can has the potential to have an impact on the policy environment.

 

What have you learned from working here?

 

In the five year since I joined, I have learned (and continue to learn) a lot about a variety of different things (economic and econometric methodologies, data and how to use it, how government policy-making works etc.). Although the more I’ve learned the more I’ve realised I don’t know!

 

How would you describe the working environment?

 

The working environment is laid-back and friendly. Everyone is always extremely willing and able to field questions, which is important.

 

How has your career progressed, so far, at IFS?

 

I have been employed by the IFS for 5 years. In that time I have obtained more freedom to develop my own research agenda. This comes with the responsibility of helping to source funding for this research agenda. Both the freedom and responsibility come gradually – and there is always support and advice available from more senior colleagues.

In addition, I am completing a part-time PhD at UCL while continuing working at IFS. The first two years of this involved attending lectures and sitting exams – since then, my PhD work has focussed on preparing my thesis. This provides additional challenges in terms of managing my time and workload, but, since I very much enjoy economic research, is something that I am extremely happy to have had the opportunity to take up.

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