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RA5a: Structure,environment and staffing policy

Introduction and Overview

Over the last 15 years, the Economics sector (the UEA equivalent of a department) has built a reputation as an internationally-recognised centre of specialised research excellence. The sector increased its rating from 3 to 4 in the 1992 RAE and, in 1996, a "flag“ for its experimental economics group was added to the rating of 4 for the sector as a whole. In a recent survey (Kalaitzidakis et al, European Economic Review, 1999) UEA was one of nine UK economics departments to be placed in Europe’s top 30 on all four measures of quality research output.

The sector’s aim is to develop its international reputation further, by continuing to produce research of the highest calibre in an institutional setting which encourages open-mindedness and innovation. This goal should be set in the context of UEA’s overall mission to be a premier research institution. The University established a Research Selective Investment Scheme in 1997 to back subject areas of particular potential. Economics was one of those chosen for the highest support, receiving an investment in excess of £250,000 in the period 1997-2002.

The sector’s strategy is designed to sustain a top class research reputation, given the starting point of its relatively small size. It has three main components:

1. Concentration on a few areas, in which we can develop critical mass and real international research strength, rather than spreading resources thinly over the entire subject.

2. Maintenance of an inclusive research culture, including the encouragement of collaborative research both within UEA and externally.

3. Insistence on high publication standards, rather than maximising the number of publications.

There are three main areas of research in the sector: experimental economics/decision theory, industrial economics, and public policy. In each of the first two, there is a group who have collaborated together for many years and will continue to do so; work in the third area draws in part on the first two and is also conducted by individuals and pairings that come together for specific projects.

The sector has conducted important research during the review period: its principal research groups have produced a substantial amount of internationally-renowned work; and we believe that all of the research conducted in the sector is of at least national standard.

Research Areas and Activity

The recent achievements of each of the three research groups are described below. In RA1, we have assigned individuals to groups on the basis of their main publications in the period. However, as sector policy is to avoid rigid boundaries and to encourage collaboration, there is considerable fluidity between groups. Hence, we also give below a list of those involved with each group by virtue of their broader interests and future plans.

1. Experimental economics/decision theory (Cubitt, Hargreaves Heap, Loomes, Moffatt, Munro, Qizilbash, Starmer, Sugden).

This group is engaged in developing, testing, and evaluating theories of decision-making. It has an international reputation both for its theoretical work on rational choice and for its programme of experimental work. Members of the group pioneered the early development of experimentation in economics in the UK, established UEA as one of the leading centres for experimental economics in Europe, and continue to conduct research at the forefront of the field.

Recent years have seen new lines of research in decision theory (e.g. evolutionary foundations of preferences) and in experimental technique (e.g. testing experimental incentive systems; developing stochastic choice models, which allow use of econometric techniques on experimental data). Theory and experimentation have been closely linked. For example, the group carried out theoretical work on the dynamic choice foundations of decision theory and ran the first systematic experimental test of dynamic choice principles. Similarly, it both formulated and tested theories of reference-dependent preferences. These strands of the group’s work led to publications in the Economic Journal, Quarterly Journal of Economics and Review of Economic Studies, as well as in numerous other journals (see RA2, under Cubitt, Loomes, Munro, Starmer and Sugden, for a selection). The group undertook two major ESRC-funded projects (combined value c. £250,000) which incorporated the work described above. They addressed research council priorities, being located in the ESRC research programmes on Economic Beliefs and Behaviour and on Risk and Human Behaviour respectively. Both projects were graded "Outstanding“ in the ESRC’s end-of-award evaluations.

Although he moved to UEA only in January 2001, Loomes has been involved in the group’s work for many years. He pioneered experimental investigation of individual decision-making in the UK with Sugden and Starmer and, more recently, had a close involvement with the ESRC projects mentioned above, as a co-researcher in the first and Director of the ESRC programme to which the second belonged. His recent research has overlapped with that of the UEA group on several issues (e.g. incentives, stochastic choice models). In addition, he has an international reputation for developing and applying contingent valuation methods, particularly in the field of health and safety.

Two distinctive features of the group are its concern with foundations, including the implications for welfare economics of anomalies in individual decision-making, and its inter-disciplinary expertise, especially in relation to philosophy. Several of its members have researched the methodology of economics, in connection with experiments and more generally. The appointment of Qizilbash, an expert on non-preference-based concepts of well-being in development economics, increases the scope for cross-disciplinary work in relation to welfare. During the review period, and in addition to the core economics papers cited in RA2, Qizilbash, Starmer and Sugden published on these topics in Economics and Philosophy, Journal of Economic Methodology, Social Philosophy and Policy and Utilitas; and Loomes and Starmer both contributed to the 1999 Economic Journal symposium on experimental economics.

2. Industrial economics (Davies, Hviid, Lyons, Moffatt, Wakerly).

This group’s research can be summarised under three themes. The first built on its earlier work on UK and EU industrial structure and the competitive process. The period started with the production of a major book (see RA2, under Lyons). Reviews emphasised its foundational importance in making possible consistent cross-national research: "This book reports an extraordinarily ambitious transnational effort to gather consistent benchmark data on European manufacturing in 1987 and to analyze the forces that gave rise to salient structural features.“ (F. Scherer, Journal of Economic Literature); "The great merit of this book lies in laying the base for longitudinal studies of industries’ development. … The authors’ work here, if built on, as it certainly deserves, will be a crucial input.“ (M. Beesley, Economic Journal). The group has built on this, through further projects that have updated the European benchmark to 1993 and then 1997. A unique feature of the UEA approach is the linking of firm level variables (e.g. profitability, diversification, multinationality) with industry level variables (e.g. forms of competition, concentration). Applications of the methodology have addressed: turbulence of market shares, leading to Davies’s Review of Economics and Statistics paper with Geroski; the impact of the Single European Market; UK-German comparative dynamics; intra-EU multinationality; and the relationship between corporate structure and performance. The group’s work on integration and convergence has been strengthened by the arrival of Wakerly, whose recent PhD was on disaggregate (by industry and region) growth dynamics.

The second main theme related to transaction costs and inter-firm contractual relations. Lyons analysed contract duration and trust, and conducted novel empirical work to measure and explain the various dimensions of contracting. This theme has been strengthened by the recent arrival of Hviid, bringing his expertise on relational contracting and legal rules. In addition to the core economics papers cited in RA2, Hviid has published on contracts during the review period in journals such as Oxford Journal of Legal Studies and International Review of Law and Economics.

The third theme was the analysis of UK and European competition policy. It had a strong applied element, benefitting from the policy advisory experience of the group (see RA6)). Davies co-authored a book on monopoly abuse (" .. the most substantial and systematic assessment of UK monopoly policy ever undertaken.“, M. Utton). This line of research has also been strengthened by Hviid’s arrival (e.g. his work on the competitive effects of price-matching guarantees) and by the founding in November 2000 of the Centre for Competition and Regulation (see RA5c). The group's research has recently been supported by six grants from the ESRC, the EU, and the Anglo-German Foundation.

3. Public policy (Connolly, Cubitt, Davies, Hargreaves Heap, Loomes, Moffatt, Munro, Parikh, Qizilbash, Wakerly, Sugden).

A significant part of the recent research of the experimental economics/decision theory and industrial economics groups has a policy focus, notably Davies’s research on monopoly policy, the work of Qizilbash and Sugden on the foundations of welfare economics, and of Loomes, Munro and Sugden on the use of contingent valuation methods in policy appraisal. This work is described above.

In addition, members of the sector have worked on a range of other policy-related issues, focussing on macroeconomics, the public sector, and the labour market. In macroeconomics, Parikh and Wakerly analysed exchange rate policy and time series properties of exchange rates; empirical investigations of technical change and growth dynamics were conducted by Parikh (for Australia) and Wakerly (for Canada); and Cubitt analysed the game theoretic modelling of monetary policy and wages. The sector’s work in applied public economics included pharmacoeconomic assessments by Wakerly and analysis of restrictions on satellite broadcasting by Hargreaves Heap. The recent book by Connolly and Munro provides an overview of the economics of the public sector, integrating theory with an up-to-date picture of the UK public sector and tax/social security systems. In labour economics, Connolly analysed long-term unemployment, emphasising the damage to future employment prospects done by short spells of unemployment. Her work on labour supply is complemented by Moffatt’s emerging research on lifestyle behaviour. Cubitt and Hargreaves Heap modelled the links between investment and minimum wages, arguing that these might ameliorate the employment effects of such regulations.


UEA Research Environment: Physical and Intellectual

The sector is located in the School of Economic and Social Studies (SOC), which also contains Politics/Sociology and Philosophy sectors. The School maintains the Experimental Economics Laboratory; an investment of £20,000 is planned in 2001 to upgrade it. The School also provides two computing labs for research students and finances a Research Adviser and an IT Officer to maintain equipment/software and to assist research students and faculty with their research computing needs. The sector runs a weekly staff seminar, at which UEA faculty and visiting speakers present their research, and a weekly research students’ workshop. Reading groups are a regular feature of sector and School life: recent examples studied the philosophical foundations of welfare economics and new developments in anti-trust theory. The sector produces a discussion paper series under the Economics Research Centre imprint.

Sixteen PhDs have been awarded in the review period, compared with seven in the last RAE, and a further fifteen are in progress. We have concentrated this expansion in areas of strength, to maximise the synergy between research students and staff. The completed PhDs were distributed as follows: experimental/decision theory: 8; industrial organisation: 6; macroeconomics: 2. For the same reason, we have also concentrated on quality: six ESRC research studentships were awarded to the sector in the review period. The sector has mode A ESRC recognition for research studentships and a well-established MA programme, with ESRC research-training (RT) recognition and 28 students in 2000-1. The MA programme was given a quota of three advanced course awards in the 1996 ESRC Recognition Exercise, the most awarded to any comparably sized Economics department in the UK. (The sector is also a partner in the School's Public Choice MA, which has two further quota awards.) The MA programme provides a source of research students and, for example by providing Masters level teaching opportunities, promotes the intellectual atmosphere of the sector.

Although the Economics sector in the School of Economic and Social Studies (i.e. the UoA for this submission) is the main grouping of economists in the University, there are economists in other Schools, notably Environmental Sciences (ENV), Health Policy and Practice (HPP), Development Studies (DEV) and Management (MGT). Recent years have seen extensive collaboration with Ian Bateman (ENV); and there are developing links with Richard Cookson, Miranda Mugford and Richard Smith (HPP), and with Kerry Turner and the psychologist of risk Nick Pidgeon (ENV). In addition to the works cited in RA2, Parikh published with Richard Palmer-Jones (DEV), for example in Journal of Agricultural Economics, and David Lovatt (MGT), for example in Applied Financial Economics; and the recent arrival in MGT of Catherine Waddams, an economist with expertise on regulation, will bring further collaboration with the sector. Development of intra-UEA research links, through the creation of new research centres, is an important part of the sector’s strategy for the future described below in RA5c.

In order to broaden its research network, the sector encourages collaboration with leading researchers around the world. The experimental economics/decision theory group is involved in joint projects with the experimental groups led by Catherine Eckel (Virginia Tech), Daniel Kahneman (Princeton), Arthur Schram (Amsterdam) and Yanis Varoufakis (Sydney). Sugden was Visiting Professor in 2000 at Virginia Tech; Munro was Visiting Associate Professor at the University of Hiroshima in 1998 and Visiting Scholar at the University of California, San Diego, in 1999. The industrial economics group has recently conducted research with colleagues from CERIS (Turin), the Catholic University of Leuven, WIFO (Vienna) and Texas A&M; Davies collaborated with Lars-Hendrik Roller (WZB, Berlin); Hviid’s arrival brings his working links with Greg Shaffer (Rochester) and with Ingrid Henriksen and Peter Molgaard (Copenhagen). Lyons will visit the European University Institute, as a Jean Monnet Fellow, in 2001-2. Parikh has recently been Visiting Professor at Deakin University, the Indian Institute of Management and the University of Sydney. Moffatt also visited the University of Sydney in 1997 and collaborates with Murray Smith (Sydney) and David Butler (Western Australia); Wakerly is working with James Nason (British Columbia) and Patrick Coe (Calgary). Within the UK, the experimental economics/decision theory group has close links with the counterpart groups led by Michael Jones-Lee (Newcastle), Chris Starmer (Nottingham), Michael Bacharach (Oxford) and John Hey (York); Connolly has recently collaborated with Mary Gregory (Oxford); Davies with Paul Geroski (LBS), Roger Clarke (Cardiff), Nigel Driffield (Birmingham), and Mike Waterson (Warwick); Hviid with David Collie (Cardiff); Moffatt with Simon Peters (Manchester); and Wakerly with Shaun Vahey (Cambridge).

Research Management

The sector has a Research Convenor (Cubitt). All research activities are also monitored by the Research Committee of the School, recently chaired by Lyons and Cubitt, and by the University’s Research Committee. The progress of research students is reviewed by the sector’s Graduate Convenor (Munro) and the School’s Graduate Studies Committee.

The sector’s research management strategy combines collegiality and encouragement (especially of younger staff) with a focussed pursuit of the sector’s research objectives. For example, the normal expectation is that all post-probationary staff will take one semester in seven as paid study leave; but permission for this is conditional on realistic publication plans. The sector operates a rolling research review programme, typically at 6-monthly intervals. It formulates priorities for each individual and monitors progress towards personal and collective targets. These activities are undertaken both at a decentralised (group or individual) level and in plenary sector meetings. They provide a forum in which younger staff can suggest how more experienced researchers might help them and in which previously unrecognised opportunities for collaboration can be identified. The increasing involvement of Moffatt with the experimental and industrial groups, thereby linking his microeconometric expertise with specialist knowledge from those groups, is an example of a development initiated by this process. (The first resulting publications, on stochastic choice and on the evolution of market structure, will be published just after the review period in Journal of Risk and Uncertainty and Economica, respectively.) A further example is the collaboration of Wakerly and Parikh on exchange rates (see RA2). The sector assists new staff to develop their research through an initial reduced teaching load. New staff have a senior mentor and all staff participate in an annual appraisal scheme; in both cases, reviews of research progress are central.

Staffing Policy

Our strategy has been to consolidate and to strengthen our existing areas of strength, to make good quality appointments with strong potential, and to retain key staff.

The experimental economics/decision theory group has been consolidated through the appointment of Loomes, one of the leading figures in the field; by the increased involvement of Cubitt, Munro and, more recently, Moffatt in this area; by the developing collaboration with related researchers at UEA; and by the lectureship appointment of Qizilbash, whose conceptual interests complement those of the group. The industrial economics group has been expanded through the appointment of Hviid, at senior level; Wakerly’s appointment as lecturer has added new dimensions to the public policy group and created potential links between macroeconomics and the industrial group. Hviid was drawn from Warwick, Loomes from Newcastle, Qizilbash from Southampton, and Wakerly from the graduate programme of the University of British Columbia. Cubitt, Munro and Starmer have been promoted in recent years. Although Starmer subsequently moved to a chair in a 5-rated department, the sector has been highly successful in the long-term at maintaining strong research groups in its key areas.

A further aspect of staffing policy has been the use of £60,000 over five years, from University and sector resources, to fund teaching relief. This permitted the appointment of four Teaching Assistants and of some experienced part-time teachers. As well as freeing time for research, this policy boosted the research student population.

Users of this website should note that the information is not intended to be a complete record of all research centres in the UK

Copyright 2002 - HEFCE, SHEFC, ELWa, DEL

Last updated 17 October 2003

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