Apply by: 15 July 2019

Criteria for Research Funding

The original call from the ESRC in 2016 entitled ‘Understanding the Macroeconomy’ suggested that a particularly dominant paradigm in academic macroeconomics had resulted in something of a ‘monoculture’ in UK academic macroeconomics. This may have led to a disconnect between policy-makers and academic macroeconomics and perhaps excluded alternatives to this dominant paradigm. We wish to examine these suggestions, particularly in a UK context. We have held workshops which have addressed the issue of a monoculture in macroeconomics and the cultures of expertise between academia and policy making. We draw your attention to the background note, summary and presentations from the workshop which are available here.

A number of themes emerged from the discussion at the workshop which we would like to develop further through research projects. These include:

1. Are there institutional constraints that promote a monoculture in academic macroeconomics?

We seek projects that investigate whether there are constraints or incentives that inculcate a monoculture and perhaps stifle a diversity of approaches in academic macroeconomics. The ESRC and several noted macroeconomists have raised the question of ‘monocultures’ and the negative impact of policy orthodoxies on social outcomes.[1] Within history, sociology and anthropology there is a rich seam of research on these issues that has many themes in common with economists’ studies of decision-making. These disciplines have shown how the ethos, social hierarchies and networks of economists can narrow the forms of policy. Academic institutions and journals can restrict debate and/or amplify a single orthodoxy. Established procedures and social networks can prevent the rethinking of economic dynamics and institutional interventions.

We seek projects that investigate whether there are indeed constraints that support a monoculture, including government assessment methods, promotion boards, journal boards and map the social networks in UK Academic economics which may show how these are produced. This mapping should be the starting point for identifying key points of intervention that could creatively alter the pool of ideas, technical devices and people drawn upon by the Bank of England, FCA and Treasury. This may require: the formation of new pathways for professionals into these institutions; the design of new journals and forums; the foundation of new institutional sites of cross-disciplinary research; the provision of different academic incentives and funding sources or even a rethinking of the values and goals of our economic Institutions.

2. How could we democratise our UK macro-economic institutions?

Although the Bank of England, FCA and Treasury are institutions that exist for the public good there is very limited public scrutiny of their social networks and policies. This is of increasing concern to them in the wake of the failure of economic experts to influence the public in a number of recent public debates about the future of economic policy. This has led to some experiments in public consultation such as by the Royal Society of Arts and the Bank of England’s citizens councils.

Yet at present the only organisation that holds them to account is the Treasury Select Committee. This has acted to attempt to address disparities in gender and BME hiring within them.[2] It has also at times tried to scrutinise the Bank of England’s post 2008 policies. However these limited measures do not fully answer concerns about whether and to what extent our macro-institutions serve citizens. In particular it is well known that tight social networks tie our macroeconomic institutions to one and another—a proverbial ‘revolving door.’ In addition, their attempts to be transparent to the public are only partial. Some matters are made public in reports and research papers, while others are not fully revealed.

We seek research projects that track the lines of accountability, current social networks and partial transparency of our macroeconomic institutions. This would map current social networks between the FCA, Treasury, Bank of England senior officials, politicians and finance. This could begin with a scrutiny of the profiles of the key committees and leaders in these institutions and how their careers overlap. It would also track movements between these various sectors. In addition it would examine the limits and potential of current practices of accountability. Finally, it would explore what information is revealed and what is hidden by our macroeconomic institutions.

On the basis of this map, the project might build recommendations about how to alter the lines of influence, create real transparency and democratize our macroeconomic institutions. Would we need new bodies to scrutinize their work? Should there be elected committees to the boards of these institutions or the selection of leaders from a wide range of social backgrounds and career paths? How could the impact of these institutions on the macro-economy and financial sector be better tracked by auditors, academics and the public? How can we create a popular macro-economics in the true sense of that term—a democratic engagement with the impact and goals of economic policy?

We look forward to receiving your applications.

Professor Laura Bear (LSE) and Professor Gary Dymski (Leeds)

[1] Buiter 2009, Chang 2011, Dymski 2014, Haldane 2012, Haldane & Turrell 2017, Hoover NISER presentation, Keynes 2017, Kumhof & Ranciere 2010, Miller, Zhang and Rastapana u.p., Sen 2009, Stiglitz 2012.

[2] Women in Finance Report, Treasury Committee, June 2018.




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25 June 2019