Monday, December 30, 2013

Behavioural Science Workshop Series

Context & Aims: The purpose of this ESRC funded workshop series is to bring together economics and psychology researchers in key areas of research and practice to discuss open questions on measurement in behavioural and social sciences. The workshops are being coordinated by Michael Daly, Liam Delaney, Leonhard Lades and Alex Wood of the Behavioural Science Centre at the University of Stirling School of Management with considerable input from other members of the centre. There are three main themes of the workshops outlined below.

First, whilst the use of secondary datasets within economics is a primary methodology, awareness and use of these datasets remains low within psychology (as recently highlighted by both the ESRC and MRC). Such secondary datasets have started to contain a large number of constructs (such as personality at multiple time points) giving much scope for psychologists to benefit from these resources, were awareness and confidence higher in the field. The decades of experience within economics can bring much to psychology in terms of statistical expertise developed through long engagement with demonstrating causality and isolating effects in this kind of data.

Second, methods developed within psychology can be used to better collect economically-relevant data in both small and large studies. The development of novel measures (e.g. bio-tracking, real-time activity monitoring, day reconstruction and life-reconstruction methods) points to potential solutions to the constraints and limitations of traditional secondary databases. However, such developments also lead to open questions regarding the statistical properties and validity of such measures, their underlying assumptions, the impact of using non-probability or small samples, and the potential of these measures for examining substantive research questions at the national and cross-national levels. As with promoting the use of secondary datasets, improving measurement is a key challenge that can be best met through interdisciplinary research between economics and psychology.

Third, underpinning each of the priorities is a concern for individual well-being. This has particularly policy implications with the Office for National Statistics beginning to measure well-being on a national scale for the government to use to evaluate national progress alongside traditional economic indices. Increasingly it is emerging that socio-economic factors relate differently to well-being depending on how exactly well-being is conceptualised and measured. Building in such understanding to the design of future datasets and the formulation of policy recommendations remains a key challenge for furthering each of the priorities. Research within psychology has examined these issues in depth for decades, providing a strong impetus for better collaboration of this discipline with economics, where the study of subjective variables is still quite novel. 
Seminar Format : A series of six one-day workshops will be held in Management School at the University of Stirling. The workshops will be held over two years beginning in February 2014. The timings of subsequent workshops will be: May 2014, August 2014, October 2014, February 2015 and June 2015. Each workshop will bring together a total of eight leading academics and industry/policy researchers from the UK, Europe, and US who are committed to delivering a set of presentations that maps directly to a specific research theme as described below. Each workshop will have an attendance of 40 individuals including speakers. 

Participation Policy: A broad set of academic speakers and leading industry/policy researchers have committed to engage with the proposed seminar series. Our speakers are drawn primarily from economists and psychologists with strong complementary interests in behavioural economics and applied microeconomics. 

Details of the workshops will be made available below. Precise dates for the later workshops will be provided in due course. 

Workshop 1: "Measurement and Determinants of Well-Being": Stirling, February 21st 2014. 

The last decade has seen a dramatic increase in focus on human well-being in economics and psychology. Many large-scale national and international surveys have adopted diverse measures of well-being (e.g. positive affect, life-satisfaction, eudemonic well-being) and tracked change within these variables over time. This workshop will draw on the strengths of psychologists familiar with the theoretical nuances and psychometric properties of various measures of well-being and economists with experience in employing sophisticated time-series and quasi-experimental approaches to the analysis of well-being data. Speakers will present empirical findings detailing the link between diverse measures of well-being and economic and demographic factors. This workshop will act to highlight the potential of subjective well-being data and increase awareness of the analytic approaches used to address substantive research questions using large-scale secondary data sources. The workshop will open up debate with industry/policy researchers regarding the extent to which diverse well-being measures can inform and assist in the evaluation of economic policies. 

Workshop 2: Increasing the richness and frequency of social science survey data: Stirling, May 23rd 2014.

This workshop will showcase frontier approaches that aim to enhance the sophistication and the frequency with which social science data is collected. Speakers will outline innovative methodological tools and their application to key themes such as the measurement of well-being, behaviour, and attitudes. These include employing innovative measures of affect and behaviour, such as the Day Reconstruction Method (DRM), construction of representative longitudinal panel surveys and continuous surveys of cross-sections of the population that are capable of gauging patterns of welfare, behaviour, and opinions at the monthly or even daily level (e.g. American Life Panel (ALP); European Commission Flash Eurobarometer, Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index).

Workshop 3: Secondary data and life-span models: Stirling, August 2014.

There is now an abundance of large government databases, which often assess detailed psychological, economic, and health measures in samples of tens of thousands of participants over several years or even decades. The initial workshop will address the ESRC’s priority objective of fostering research that capitalizes on the expanding data resources available in the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS) archive and comparable international depositories. Speakers in this workshop will demonstrate how the precise psychometric measurement of constructs such as intelligence, temperament/personality, and adverse conditions initially and over several years of follow-up can be used to probe the mechanisms underlying the unfolding of economic, health and welfare outcomes as well as inequalities across these domains. The use of life-reconstruction to produce retrospective accounts of early conditions will be addressed, studies utilizing this data presented, and the limitations (e.g. recall, desirability biases) of this approach discussed.

Workshop 4: Preferences and personality: Stirling, October 2014

One of the major challenges in economics is understanding the statistical properties of measures of time, risk, and social preferences and evaluating the validity of such measures. This workshop will focus on empirical research examining economic preferences in laboratory and real-world settings. Speakers will address the reliability of traditional preference measures, their structure across demographic characteristics, innovations in measurement, and links between preference estimates and objective economic and biological measures. We have invited speakers who are engaged in the theoretical and empirical mapping of preference measures to personality traits which have been shown to have substantial predictive validity for important life outcomes (e.g. income, disease morbidity and mortality, employment). Taken together, this workshop will enhance cross-talk and expand the common conceptual ground that exists between personality psychologists and economists interested in the assessment of preferences in the UK and Europe. Furthermore, it will cultivate frontier thinking regarding the future data-collection priorities for social science in the UK and further afield.

Workshop 5: Biological markers in behavioural science: Stirling, February 2015.

Increasingly detailed assessments of biological markers of human functioning are now an important component of large-scale government surveys in the social sciences (e.g. NCDS, Add Health). In contrast to measures of health perceptions, biological measures are cardinal in nature and attractive to economists as potential outcome measures, for instance in labour and health economics.  Yet, understanding of measures of inflammatory, metabolic, neuroendocrine and cardiovascular functioning which are commonly used in the medical community remains limited amongst many social scientists. To address this issue this workshop will include talks from researchers who are leading the integration of biological measures into economics and psychology. The workshop will address the structure of the primary biological measures examined in social surveys and the potential biological basis of economic decisions.

Workshop 6: Behavioural science and public policy: Stirling, June 2015

The final workshop will be dedicated to the interface between behavioural science and public policy. Researchers involved in the empirical estimation of policy effects and in the understanding and shaping of the theoretical principles that inform policy have agreed to present. A key theme of this workshop will be the measurement and data needs and priorities of those conducting policy research and methods through which key measures such as well-being, preference parameters, personality, and biological measures could be integrated into policy research to a greater extent and the advantages that this approach may yield.

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