Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Blog Topics: Economics, Psychology, & Policy

It has been a while since I have written longer posts on this blog. As said in the previous post, we will shortly launch a formal website for the new group and this blog will now revert to a more personal platform to discuss economics and psychology research. My main motivation in returning to this activity is to help in the process of developing material for a book I am writing on the history of economics psychology, and the development of a number of teaching programmes in UCD. There is also a discipline in writing blogposts that still makes it useful on top of using twitter as a form of social media interaction.

The main idea behind my book is to present the history of economics and psychology as a series of interactions and intellectual ideas over centuries and to draw inspiration from this for understanding the current field and future developments. I will post some ideas from this over the next while on this blog.

I have been involved, with colleagues, in developing two one-year graduate programmes, the MSc in Behavioural Science in Stirling, and the MSc in Behavioural Economics in UCD. The MSc in Stirling is currently in its fifth year and the MSc in Dublin is going into its second year. Developing these programmes has been an intense and rewarding experience and has pushed me to continue to learn as much as I can about wider literatures and push our programmes as far as possible towards the frontier of current knowledge and practice.

At present, there are a number of areas I am particularly interested in, and this will be reflected in the blog topics. The ethical aspect of applications of behavioural science in the public and private sector has been a key strand in both the UCD and Stirling MSc programmes. This blogpost contains a long albeit partial list of the various works that have been written on this. I am increasingly interested in how this can be brought into practice across the world, in particular the potential for usual guidelines for practitioners drawing from the academic literature. Related to this, there are now many firms and other organisations hiring behavioural scientists and behavioural economics, and many dedicated training programmes in this area. It is a good time to ask how to develop the professional aspects of this field. What counts as sufficient training for a behavioural scientist? What professional structures would benefit the discipline? I am hoping to build a lot more links between the various programmes in this area throughout Europe and am open to contact on this at any point. The development of career tracks in this area is also something I have been keeping an eye on.

Many of our students enter into policy and regulation in particular, and we hope that they are discerning consumers of scientific information. The replication crisis has entered many of our lectures and we train students to think critically about the academic literature, and I hope to keep up to date with the responses to this through posting here. In general, the extent to which we can go from findings in the academic literature to deriving parameters that are useful in policy is something that has occupied a lot of attention in my reading and our teaching. New papers emerging on scaleability, policy-relevant treatment effects, and related concepts should be a key focus of thought for people attempting to building bridges between policy and academia.

The blog will also be used to put out simple conceptual pieces to complement our Irish Behavioural Science and Policy Network sessions. Through this network, we host a range of discussion events and keynote talks, and there are currently approaching 500 people on the mailing list (which you can sign up to here). I have often used the blog to write short posts on topics that people keep asking me about on email or in talks and I will continue that here now also. We will be announcing soon upcoming keynote talks as well as regular sessions on ethics, business decision-making, and communications. 

The integration of new methodologies into our work has always been a focus of attention for this blog. I hope to keep discussions going on what methods behavioural public policy researcher should be trained in. Our group is particularly focused on naturalistic methods such as day reconstruction, but we will discuss a wide range of methodologies, including qualitative methods here (post here). We are completing work on building a new experimental lab here in UCD, and we are having a lot of discussions about studies combining lab experiments and naturalistic survey methods.

I will use the hashtags #ucdbsp (UCD Behavioural Science and Policy) and #ibspn (Irish Behavioural Science and Policy Network) on twitter to disseminate the posts.

Please do get in touch there or email me if you have thoughts about any of the posts or suggestions for topics.

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