Message from Executive Director
PER was founded in 2003 to enrich the intellectual environment of the economics department and the broader community, and to promote and support research by faculty and students. Funded initially by the Provost’s Academic Quality Fund and Arts and Sciences, its primary function was to support and manage grants and endowments, and to use the proceeds to organize a variety of programs such as Panel Discussions and Conferences. PER’s co-sponsorship of Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture, along with Columbia Press also began in 2008 to honor Arrow’s contribution to economics, with the inaugural address given by Joseph E. Stiglitz and Bruce C. Greenwald. Over the course of its 15 year history, PER underwent several adjustments in its structure under the directorship of Kyle Bagwell, Glenn Hubbard, Don Davis, Michael Woodford, Bentley MacLeod, David Weinstein, Ricardo Reis and myself. Most importantly, since the 2016-2017 year, the Department of Economics pledged to fully fund and ramp up the PER’s mission and its activities.
Since its inception, PER has been a hub for pioneering research by economics scholars from the Columbia community and abroad. The current activities of PER span several fronts. First, PER hosts short-term visitors. Short-term visitors immerse themselves in a week-long visit to our department, present a paper in our weekly workshop and interact with our faculty and graduate students on scheduled meetings. The program hosted 21 visitors in 2016-2017 year alone.
Second, PER organizes a Distinguished Lecture Series. These lecture series complement weekly workshops by inviting prominent scholars to provide a survey style overview of their research agenda. Started in the 2015-16AY, we have hosted about 16 lectures by eminent scholars. Press here for more on PER Distinguished Lecture Series.
Third, PER organizes and sponsors mini-courses to provide in-depth exposure for our students and faculty to pioneering research. Recent examples include Johannes Hörner’s course on “Experimentation and Social Learning,” Ben Moll’s course on “Heterogeneous Agent Models in Continuous Time,” and Rajiv Vohra’s course on “Coalitional Games.”
Fourth, PER organizes and/or sponsors numerous academic conferences throughout the year. These conferences demonstrate the breadth and depth of intellectual pursuits supported by PER. They include large high-profile gatherings such as the 21st meeting of Society for Institutional & Organizational Economics meetings, and a Special Symposium in Memory of Kenneth J. Arrow, which featured several Nobel Laureates. There are also smaller in-depth gatherings on frontier research topics, such as Microeconomic Theory, Climate Finance, Political Economy, Market Design, Cognition and Decision, and Bounded Rationality, and Development.
Lastly, PER houses and supports several research initiatives: (1) Cognitive and Behavioral Economics Initiative, which runs a weekly lab on behavioral economics, hosts visitors, and organizes seminars and conferences; (2) Microeconomic Theory Initiative , which supports graduate student research, sponsors visitors and mini-courses, and organizes annual conferences, and (3) Market Design Initiative, which supports seminars, visitors and an annual conference.
PER supports not just the production of research but also its consumption by the Columbia economics community, its alumni, and beyond. PER has been organizing public events featuring policy makers, authors, academics and industry practitioners to discuss important socio-economic and policy issues. Recent events include discussions by panels of academics and policy makers on “High Frequency Trading in Modern Financial Markets,” on “Rise and Implications of 1099” dealing with the rapidly changing nature of jobs in the modern labor market, and on “The Trump Administration’s Trade Policy,” focusing on the administration’s alarming embrace of protectionism. The Arrow Lecture remains an important part of our outreach activities. Last year marked the 10th anniversary of the lecture series, which was made especially poignant with the passing of Ken Arrow. The featured lecturer was Glenn Loury who discussed “Persistent Racial Inequality in the U.S.” Press to see Prof. Loury’s lecture.
The nurturing of the budding economists in our students is one of our most important goals. Over the last three years, we have significantly broadened our commitment to exposing our graduate students to frontier research areas and methodologies, with the introduction of Distinguished Lectures and Mini-courses. This year, we are very pleased to serve as the main vehicle for implementing the department’s pledge of $100,000 in supporting graduate student research. While we are still exploring ways to help their research, we have so far rolled out several programs. Last year, PER awarded 11 summer research assistant (RA) grants, and we plan to provide similar support this year. Funding is also available for students to purchase data and process them for their dissertations. Three students have already made use of this initiative to obtain new data sets. Graduate student support for research travel and editing services is also available through PER.
Our engagement with the Columbia undergraduate students remains strong and robust. The Columbia Economic Review, published by our undergraduate students put out another exciting issue this Spring. Columbia’s Fed Challenge Team won 2nd place out of 41 teams competing in the annual College Fed Challenge, which is sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
We plan to periodically update the latest on PER and the economics department through our magazine. I deeply appreciate your participation and support for our program.