ANU’s new Research School of Economics

In ten days’ time, my academic unit will cease to exist. The Economics Program at the Research School of Social Sciences (the original economics group at ANU) is merging with the School of Economics and the Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Research to create a new ANU ‘Research School of Economics’. The merger will make the RSE one of the largest (if not the largest) group of economists in Australia.

The move ought to be good for economics research and teaching, since the groups are neatly complementary. The School of Economics and CAMA have traditional strengths in theory and macro, while Economics RSSS has a reputation for applied micro. The groups will be co-located (Economics RSSS is moving into the Copland building in early-2010), and the casual coffee interactions that brings should hopefully lead to a spate of interesting new projects. We’re merging our seminar series, so we’ll have a micro seminar from 12-1 on Monday, a macro seminar from 12-1 on Wednesday, and a general seminar from 3.30-5 on Friday (all on the first floor of the Arndt building, and of course all open to the public).

Economics at ANU has had a reputation for being too fragmented. In decades gone by, when resources were flush, it was easy to justify this. In leaner times, it becomes harder. The other big merger that will affect ANU economics is that the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies (RSPAS) is merging with the Crawford School (ANU’s policy school). So the five biggest groups of economists on campus are becoming two. These mergers will naturally have their teething problems (my colleagues at Melbourne who recently called off a merger between the Economics Faculty and the Melbourne Business School will know all about that!), but I reckon that in the medium-run, they’ll work out pretty well.

Of course, shifting economics out of the Research School of Social Sciences comes with some sadness. RSSS is a unique institution in Australia, and over the years I’ve really enjoyed sharing a building and a tearoom with a bunch of razor-sharp philosophers, political scientists, sociologists and historians. The interdisciplinary nature of RSSS is something that I’ve aspired to embody in my own work, and I’m sorry to be leaving it. Moreover, the legacy of economics in RSSS features names like Trevor Swan, Fred Gruen, Bob Gregory and Bruce Chapman, and I hope we won’t lose their ability to do work that is both rigorous and relevant. I’ve recently been re-reading Selwyn Cornish’s lovely paper on the appointment of ANU’s first economics professor, Trevor Swan (the search spanned 1948-50), and have been feeling a sense of pre-nostalgia for the funny old Coombs building. Our group is also losing Deborah Cobb-Clark, who is heading off to run the Melbourne Institute. She will do great things there, but we’ll miss her.

ANU’s new Research School of Economics will be run by Warwick McKibbin, who somehow manages to juggle a significant research agenda, a bevvy of PhD students, a Brookings affiliation, the RBA Board, a consulting business, media inquiries, and substantial university administration. His two deputies will be Martin Richardson (Deputy Director – Education), and yours truly as ‘Deputy Director – Research’. Here’s the ANU press release.

An exciting feature about the Research School of Economics is that the university has committed new resources for hiring research-intensive academics at all levels. The ad should be out shortly, but in the meantime, any economists who are interested should feel free to touch base informally with Warwick, Martin, or myself. We’re also keen to attract visitors – both internationals and domestics. So if you’d like an office for a few weeks to finish off a project, or for several months for a sabbatical, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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4 Responses to ANU’s new Research School of Economics

  1. Cathal Kelly says:

    It’s great to see university seminars open to the public (even if the circumnavigation would be too much for me to attend!)

  2. Andrew Leigh says:

    We’d love to get more punters along (the kinds of people who comment on econ-blogs would typically be great to have in the room), but in practice it rarely seems to happen. Any suggestions on how to do this better?

  3. one strategy says:

    In DC, which is a reasonable analogue of Canberra in terms of population interests/education, our strategy is to: 1) build up a big external email list; 2) put a current affairs spin on the event; 3) always hold it at lunchtime. This seems to pull in the government/thinktank/journo set reasonably regularly.

  4. Cathal Kelly says:

    Over the years, the Equality Studies Centre in UCD (Dublin) has been moderately successful at getting people along to public lectures, although that success varies from year to year, and lecture to lecture.

    The scope is wider than an economics series would be, so not all ideas might add much. Point (1) by One Strategy, holds, but the UCD ESC’s have always been in the evening. In my day job (not in the ESC) I have had, from time to time, to organise an event akin to a public lecture or seminar, and an hour or so generating a list of organisations or people that might have a particular interest has paid dividends.

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