Monday, June 27, 2016

Data Science for Government 2016 Workshop

I attended the Data Science for Government workshop organised by the Behavioural Insights Team and the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford last Wednesday. The programme is here. There were several workshop sessions and a wide-ranging panel discussion on the policy implications of developments in the use of data in public policy. It was good to hear more about the work of the Data Science Lab at Warwick and the work they are doing will likely be of interest to readers here. I was also glad to hear about the development of the Turing Institute. The ethical and behavioural issues surrounding the type of work they are conducting are very interesting and complex, and it was interesting to learn more about the political science input into the development of their work. Other talks I attended included Michael Luca's discussion of the use of big data to improve the operation of cities. This is well worth looking up (some of his papers below). Kate Glazebrook of BIT presented on their new hiring tool to reduce bias in recruitment (details here). David Spiegelhalter presented on communication of risk. His website on the communication of uncertainty gives a sense of his approach. There were several other very useful talks on the day and these links are a snapshot. It would be good to speak more in our networks about the implications of the proliferation of different types of data and analytic tools for policy and, in particular, the behavioural and ethical dimensions of these developments.

Glaeser, Edward L., Scott Duke Kominers, Michael Luca, and Nikhil Naik. "Big Data and Big Cities: The Promises and Limitations of Improved Measures of Urban Life." Economic Inquiry (forthcoming). View Details

Luca, Michael, Jon Kleinberg, and Sendhil Mullainathan. "Algorithms Need Managers, Too." Harvard Business Review 94, nos. 1/2 (January–February 2016): 96–101. View Details

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Heckman Masterclass: The economics and econometrics of human development and social mobility

I attended the Masterclass given by Professor James Heckman at CEMMAP in London on Thursday. It was a masterclass in the truest sense of the word, delivered with passion and energy by a man who has very credible claim to a second Economics Nobel prize. The slides and supplementary reading are available at this link and below.

The economics and econometrics of human development and social mobility masterclass is presented by Professor James Heckman.


Lecture I. Overview of the evidence and introduction to basic models of skill measurement and skill formation (Download slides)

Lecture II. Skills: definitions and measurement issues; identification of skills from measurements. Should we trust psychologists to do their job or should we do it for them and do it better? (Download slides)

Lecture III. Technologies of skill formation and models of skill development; identification of technologies of skill formation (Download slides)

Lecture IV. Evidence on interventions: treatment effects and mechanisms underlying treatment effects (Download slides)

Download full slide pack here.

Papers to read:

* Fostering and Measuring Skills: Improving Cognitive and Non-cognitive Skills to Promote Lifetime Success (OECD Education Working Papers No. 110) by Tim Kautz, James J. Heckman, Ron Diris, Bas t. Weel, Lex Borghans.

* The Economics of Human Development and Social Mobility by James J. Heckman and Stefano Mosso.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Impressions from June 2016

On the 9th and the 10th of June, the Behavioural Science Centre hosted a PhD Conference in Behavioural Science and an ESRC Workshop on Behavioural Science and Public Policy. Thanks a lot to all who participated at these events. Special thanks to the PhD students who presented their research at the conference (names and presentation titles here) and the external workshop speakers Rebecca McDonald, Ben Guttman-Kenney, Ulrich Witt, and David Laibson

Below you'll find some impressions that might be of interest. Also have a look at the Twitter hashtag #StirBSC for more information. 

ESRC Workshop (June 10):

PhD Conference (June 9):

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Resources for Understanding Research Impact: Updated

Below is a heavily updated list of links and resources on the issue of research impact. I have tried to include pieces from research funders and agencies as well as critical and other perspectives. I might come off the fence and express a personal view on a later date!

The RCUK document below distinguishes between academic and economic/societal impacts:
"Academic impact
The demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to academic advances, across and within disciplines, including significant advances in understanding, methods, theory and application.

Economic and societal impacts
The demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to society and the economy. Economic and societal impacts embrace all the extremely diverse ways in which research related knowledge and skills benefit individuals, organisations and nations by: fostering global economic performance, and specifically the economic competitiveness of the United Kingdom, increasing the effectiveness of public services and policy, enhancing quality of life, health and creative output."  

Pain et al (2016). Mapping Alternative Impact: alternative approaches to impact from co-produced research. Centre for Social Justice and Community Action. 

Kingsley (2015). What is ‘research impact’ in an interconnected world? University of Cambridge Office of Scholarly Communication. 

LSE Handbook on impact for the social sciences 

Community Engaged Scholarship (Canada).
"Our partnership is comprised of eight universities and an international organization that have pledged to work together to change university culture, policies and practices in order to recognize and reward Community Engaged Scholarship (CES). Our overarching goal is to realize the potential of universities to improve the quality of life for all Canadians through CES." 

This post gives a nuanced definition of research impact. 
"1. A research impact is a recorded or otherwise auditable occasion of influence from academic research on another actor or organization.a. Academic impacts from research are influences upon actors in academia or universities, e.g. as measured by citations in other academic authors’ work.b. External impacts are influences on actors outside higher education, that is, in business, government or civil society, e.g. as measured by references in the trade press or in government documents, or by coverage in mass media."
Dean et al (Eds) (2013). 7 Essays on Impact. DESCRIBE Project Report for Jisc. University of Exeter. 

LSE Impact post on how researchers achieve external impact

Penfield et al (2014). Assessment, evaluations, and definitions of research impact: A review. Research Evaluation, 23, pp. 21–32.

LSE Public Policy Group (2011). Maximising the impacts of your research: a handbook for social scientists, LSE, April 2011.

RAND: Impact and the Research Excellence Framework: new challenges for universities.

Useful Links:

ESRC Impact Case Studies (2015)

UCL Impact Case Studies.

LSE Impact Case Studies

LSE blog on impact of the social sciences.

ESRC: What is impact?


Watermeyer (2016). 
Impact in the REF: issues and obstacles. Studies in Higher Education, Volume 41, Issue 2. 

Watermeyer & Hedgecoe (2016). Selling ‘impact’: peer reviewer projections of what is needed and what counts in REF impact case studies. A retrospective analysis. Journal of Education Policy, Volume 31, Issue 5. 

Marcella et al (2016). Beyond REF 2014: The impact of impact assessment on the future of information researchJournal of Information Science June 2016 vol. 42 no. 3 369-385. 

Matthews (2016). REF ‘leads to short-term research approach’. TES. 

Hinrichs & Grant (2015). A new resource for identifying and assessing the impacts of research. BMC Medicine, 13:148.

Manville et al (2015). Evaluating the Submission Process for the Research Excellence Framework's Impact Element.RAND.

Morton (2015). Progressing research impact assessment: A ‘contributions’ approach. Research Evaluation, 24 (4): 405-419.

Hanan Khazragui & Hudson (2015). Measuring the benefits of university research: impact and the REF in the UK.Research Evaluation, 24 (1): 51-62.

Vincent (2015). The Ideological Context of Impact. Political Studies Review, Volume 13, Issue 4, pages 474–484.

Marginson (2015). UK Research Excellence: Getting Better All the Time?  International Higher Education, Number 81: Summer 2015.

Greenhalgh & Fahy (2015). Research impact in the community-based health sciences: an analysis of 162 case studies from the 2014 UK Research Excellence Framework. BMC Medicine, 13:232. 

Butler & Spoelstra (2015). How the REF’s regime of excellence is changing research for the worse. The Conversation UK.

Thelwall & Delgado (2015). Arts and humanities research evaluation: no metrics please, just data, Journal of Documentation, 71(4), 817 - 833.

Shah & Song (2015). S-index: Towards Better Metrics for Quantifying Research
Impact. Cornell University.

King & Rivett (2015). Engaging People in Making History: Impact, Public Engagement and the World Beyond the Campus. Hist Workshop J (Autumn 2015) 80 (1): 218-233.

Barnes (2015). The Use of Altmetrics as a Tool for Measuring Research Impact. Australian Academic & Research Libraries, Volume 46, Issue 2.

Cahill & Bazzacco (2015). There is no easy way to measure the impact of university research on society. The Conversation AU.

Grant (2015). What REF case studies reveal on measuring research impact. The Conversation UK.

Jonathan Wolf (26th January 2015). Has the Research Excellence Framework been drowned out by its own noise? The Guardian.

Chris O'Brien (16th January 2015). Research impact post REF 2014 – the UCL approach.

Harriet Swain (20th January 2015). Universities worry about fallout from research ranking. The Guardian.

Chris O'Brien (December 2014). REF 2014 results and the future of ‘impact’.

16th December 2014. REF 2014 results: table of excellence. Times Higher Education.

Catriona Manville (7th December 2014). Measuring impact: how Australia and the UK are tackling research assessment. The Guardian.

Tim Hall (2nd December 2014. Why working across subject areas may benefit you in the REF. The Guardian.

Miriam Frankel, Alison Goddard and Gretchen Ransow (December 2014).  Golden triangle pulls ahead in REF shake-out. Research Fortnight.

Simon Kerridge (November 2013). To 2020 and Beyond.

Nature news article on UK funders incorporating impact.

The impact of research: so hard to pin down by Jonathan Wolff in the Guardian

Dr Andreas Liefooghe: Academic impact isn't just about answers - let's start with debate

David Phipps: How universities are maximising the impact of research on society 

Jane Tinkler: Academic expertise and luck required for a piece of research to be considered valuable by government in policymaking is not valued by the Research Excellence Framework.

Patrick Dunleavy: The Research Excellence Framework is lumbering and expensive. For a fraction of the cost, a digital census of academic research would create unrivalled and genuine information about UK universities’ research performance. 

Peter Wells: The REF will strangle our vibrant academic community: it will alter morale, academic valuation of our work, and the way in which we do it

Blog post by Teresa Penfield on the DESCRIBE Project in the University of Exeter, which looks at how we provide definitions and capture evidence of research impact. The project also has a blog. Here is the project's final report. 

Blog post by Richard Watermeyer on 'The elicitation of research impact through engagement'.

Also, see:

Watermeyer, Richard (2012). From Engagement to Impact? Articulating the Public Value of Academic Research, Tertiary Education and Management, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp. 115–130.

Watermeyer, Richard (2011). Challenges for University Engagement in the UK: Towards a Public Academe? Higher Education Quarterly, Volume 65, Issue 4, pages 386–410.

Blog post by Adam on the 'Cash for Questions: social science research funding, policy, and development' blog summarising how Impact is defined in the REF and by the research councils.

Smith, Katherine, and Meer, Nasar (Feb 2012). REF's effort to make knowledge visible may have cloudy results. Times Higher Education Supplement.

Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. (2009). Making an Impact: A Preferred Framework and Indicators to Measure Returns on Investment in Health Research. Report of the Panel on the Return on Investments in Health Research, January.

Canavan et al (2009). Measuring research impact: developing practical and cost-effective approaches. Evidence & Policy: A Journal of Research, Debate and Practice, Volume 5, Number 2, pp. 167-177(11).

Jonathan Grant, Philipp-Bastian Brutscher, Susan Guthrie, Linda Butler, Steven Wooding (2010). Capturing Research Impacts: A review of international practice. RAND Europe.

Smith, Richard (2007). Measuring the Social Impact of Research: Difficult but Necessary.
BMJ. 323(7312): 528.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

June 10th Workshop on Behavioural Science and Policy

This is the ninth in a series of Behavioural Science Workshops that have taken place from 2014 to 2016. These workshops are funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. The venue is the Stirling Court Hotel at Stirling University. It will take place on June 10th. The keynote speakers are Professor David Laibson and Professor Ulrich Witt. Registration is free and can be accessed at the following link:

Registration link

Venue: Wallace Monument room at Stirling Court Hotel

The 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.

The event will be preceded by a PhD workshop that will take place on June 9th. Details of this area available here

Provisional Programme

9am: Registration and Welcome:

Intertemporal Choice

9:30am to 10:15am: Leonhard Lades (Stirling): Self-control and inter-temporal choice

10:15am to 11am: Rebecca McDonald (Warwick): Measuring time preferences for non-money outcomes

11am to 11:30am: Coffee

Public Policy

11:30am to 12:15am: Ben Guttman-Kenney (FCA): Behavioural Economics and Financial Regulation.

12:15am to 1pm: Philip Newall (Stirling) Gambling advertising needs psychologically-informed regulation.

1pm to 2pm: Lunch

2:pm to 2:45pm: Seda Erdem (Stirling) Choice Experiments and Behavioural Economics

Keynote Sessions

2:45pm to 3:30pm: Keynote: Professor Ulrich Witt:(Max Plank Institute) The evolution of consumption and its welfare effects.

330pm: Coffee

4pm: Keynote: Professor David Laibson (Harvard): Hyperbolic Discounting: Empirical Estimation, Policy Implications, and Novel Interpretations.

Other helpful links:

Stirling Behavioural Science Centre
2015 PhD Conference in Behavioural Science
Events hosted by the Stirling Behavioural Science Centre
How to get to Stirling
The Stirling Court Hotel on campus

Programme for June 9th PhD Conference (Rooms 2X4 and 2X6 Cottrell Building)

09:00-09:15: Registration

09:15-10:00: Welcome & Introductory Talk by Prof Liam Delaney

10:00-10:30: Coffee Break

10:30-11:30: Session 1

Session 1a: Time Preferences and Health
Alastair Irvine on “Professional and Private Time Preferences of Scottish General Practitioners”
Rowan Tunnicliffe on “Health behaviours, time discounting and risk preferences: Evidence from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing”

Session 1b: Mindfulness and Compassion 

Chris Noone on “Improvements in Critical Thinking Performance Following Brief Mindfulness Meditation Depend on Need for Cognition and Open-mindedness” 
Kun Zhao on “Individual differences in Politeness and Compassion differentially predict prosocial  behaviours in economic games”

11:30-12:00: Coffee Break

12:00-13:00: Session 2

Session 2a: Mental Health

Caroline Wehner on “The Relationship between Thoughts of Helplessness and Hopelessness and Mental Health”

Ayse Yemiscigil on “Acting on Purpose? Purpose in Life Predicts Physical Activity; Happiness Doesn’t”

Session 2b: Financial Decision Making 1

Claire McCafferty on “Can Behavioural Economics bridge the Consumer Protection gap in the Financial Services industry?”

Belinda Vigors on “Traders’ risk behaviour, evolutionary mechanisms and performance- related pay: insights from a qualitative pilot study”

13:00-14:00: Lunch Break

14:00-15:00: Session 3

Session 3a: Well-being and employment

Victoria Mousterio “Αtypical Employment and Distress: Is working part-time a psychologically harmful experience?”

Tobias Wolf on “Income Support, (Un-)Employment and Well-Being”

Session 3b: Financial Decision Making 2

Zeynep Kutsal on “Easy Loss or Hard Win: The influence of emotions on the ability to identify positive outcomes”

Ujjwal Kumar Das “Financial distress and life satisfaction: a fixed effect quantile regression approach”

15:00-15:30: Coffee Break

15:30-16:30: Session 4

Session 4a: Time preferences and saving

Megan Grime “Inconsistent planning in the allocation of time across leisure and work”

Bernardo Nunes “Workplace pension plans and saving behavior: evidence from the United Kingdom”

Session 4b: Human Resources

Craig Anderson on “Why behavioural economic perspectives in human resource management may be of interest to you?”

Iñigo Hernandez-Arenaz on “Stereotypes and the Gender Wage Gap: Effects of Stereotypes on Tournament Self-Selection

18:00: Dinner

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Call for Papers Behavioural Science in Law & Policy: Evidence, Ethics, & Expertise

Call for Papers

Behavioural Science in Law & Policy:

Evidence, Ethics, & Expertise 

Organisers: Professor Muireann Quigley (Law, Innovation, and Society Research Group, Newcastle Law School) and Professor Liam Delaney (Behavioural Sciences Centre, Stirling Management School) 

Date: Thursday 22nd and Friday, 23rd September 2016

Venue: Research Beehive, Newcastle University

Behavioural economics, and behavioural science more generally, has become an increasingly salient aspect of modern policy debates. Governments throughout the world have begun to explicitly incorporate this literature across a wide range of policy domains. The potential for this literature to improve policy through evidence-based trials has been widely discussed. Furthermore, the implications of behavioural economics for regulation is now on the agenda of many leading regulatory agencies. The increasing traction within policy circles of behavioural approaches to law and policy is evident through the creation of specialist units across the globe; e.g. the United Kingdom’s Behavioural Insights Team, the Social and Behavioural Sciences Team in the United States, and the Behavioural Economics Team of the Australian Government. Within the European Commission, the Joint Research Centre offers support to Commission services wanting to conduct behavioural studies.

Despite the current enthusiasm amongst governments and policy-makers for behavioural approaches, there are potential problems with the use of the behavioural sciences to formulate public policy, many of which remain underexplored. The aim of this workshop is to bring together papers from a range of different disciplinary, regulatory, and practical perspectives to examine these. We invite submissions which speak to any (combination of) the three core themes: Evidence, Ethics, and Expertise. Sub-issues which contributors could consider include:

1. Method in the Madness or Madness in the Methods? 
What are the methodological limitations of using the behavioural sciences in law and policy(-making)? What are the methodological strengths of such an approach? 
Could the methods of the behavioural sciences perpetuate and/or exacerbate certain inequalities and social injustices? 
How can unforeseen side-effects and consequences be accounted for and dealt with? 
2. Translating Behavioural Science: Problems, Pitfalls, & Solutions 
How ought the findings from behavioural science research to be translated into law and policy? 
What problems and pitfalls with this process should we guard against? What are the methodological issues with the translation from laboratory to small- and large-scale real-world settings? 
What (types of) evidence is needed for the robust use of behavioural science research in law- and policy-making? What types of expertise are needed to create evidence for policy in this area? 
3. Matters of Principle & Practice: Ethics & the Behavioural Sciences 
What principles should govern whether behavioural interventions are considered acceptable or not, and how should this influence practice? 
What are the practical ethical considerations with the use of the behavioural sciences in law and policy? 
To what extent does the increasing use of behavioural influence techniques by private industry for commercial profit constitute a threat to consumer welfare? To what extent should firms themselves consider their ethical reputation when employing various techniques? 
4. The Regulatory State in the Behavioural Era 
What is the normative legitimacy of behaviourally-informed law and policy?
How should we conceive of the relationship between ‘nudges’ and the law (and/or regulation more broadly)? Does/ought the use of the behavioural sciences change our understanding of the law and legal systems?

Should governments and regulators respond to various techniques used by industry to influence consumers? And if so, how should they do this? 
What do the findings from this literature imply for the malleability of individuals? And how should this influence how we conceptualise the interaction between individuals, private industry, and regulators and government?
Submissions from across disciplines are welcomed, including (but not restricted to) the behavioural sciences, economics, law, philosophy, policy studies, and the political sciences. Contributions from those at any stage of their career are encouraged, especially from early career researchers.

Abstracts of not greater than 500 words should be sent to Prof Muireann Quigley ( and Prof Liam Delaney ( by the deadline of July 31st. Decisions will be communicated shortly after the deadline.

Please email the workshop organisers if you have any queries. If you wish to register as a delegate for the event, you can do so at the following registration page. Registration is free but numbers are limited by space. The workshop is sponsored by Newcastle University Law School and Stirling University Management School. We look forward to your submissions and participation.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Stirling Behavioural Science Events Autumn 2016

Below is our list of Autumn events in behavioural science at Stirling. It will evolve over the summer. As always, suggestions for collaboration across and outside the campus are welcome. 

September 2016 

Wednesday September 21st 4pm: Behavioural Science Seminar 

Thursday September 22nd and Friday September 23rd: Workshop on Behavioural Science: Ethics, Evidence and Policy (Joint with Newcastle Law School) 

Wednesday September 28th 4pm: Behavioural Science Seminar 

October 2016 

Wednesday October 5th 4pm: Behavioural Science Seminar

Wednesday October 12th 4pm: Behavioural Science Seminar 

Wednesday October19th 4pm: Behavioural Science Seminar

Wednesday October 26th 4pm: Behavioural Science Seminar

November 2016 

Wednesday November 2nd 4pm: Behavioural Science Seminar

Wednesday November 9th 4pm: Behavioural Science Seminar

Wednesday November 16th 12pm to 4pm: Workshop on Economics, Behavioural Science and Youth Unemployment 

Wednesday November 23rd 4pm: Behavioural Science Seminar 

Wednesday November 30th 4pm: Behavioural Science Seminar