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Regular version of the site

Eric Maskin: ‘The Secret of a Successful Career Is Not a Secret’

On the September 19th Eric Maskin, Nobel laureate in economics, Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University (USA), Chief Research Fellow at the HSE International Laboratory of Decision Choice and Analysis, arrived in Moscow again. What is his programme for this visit to the HSE?

— How long will you stay in Moscow this time and what are you planning to do here?

— As usual, I’ll stay in Moscow for 10 days. This year I’m coming to the HSE three times, and each visit will last 10 days, so in total I’ll be spending 30 days in Russia. The next visit will be in December. I’m continuing my lecture course on Mechanism Design: I’ve just given a couple of three-hour lectures in Moscow and I’ll give two more lectures over the weekends, but not in Moscow. My students, some faculty members and I are going to Yaroslavl for the coming weekend for a change of scene. We plan to go on working there anyway. So lecturing is just one of the things that I’m doing. Yesterday I gave a research seminar presenting some recent work that I’ve done. Also, I meet and talk to my students and research colleagues on a daily basis.

— What was the topic of your lecture today?

— I did a couple of things today. I looked at implementation in Sub Game Perfect Equilibrium, so how to design mechanisms for particular game theoretic solution concepts. And I also looked at the question of how to design mechanisms when players have incomplete information meaning that one player doesn’t know what the other player knows. It turns out that even when players don’t know each other’s information; it’s still possible to design good mechanisms. They are just a little bit more complicated than when players know all the info.

— What are your impressions of the educational level of our students? Are they well prepared and do they understand what you’re talking about?

— I’m sure they are; they all have very strong backgrounds in Economics and Game theory. I don’t think they have any trouble understanding my lectures. Of course, really, you should ask them to make sure, but judging from the questions that they ask, I think they have no problem. Some of their questions were very perceptive, suggesting that the students understand the subtlety of the arguments. In fact, I’m very pleased with this sort of questions.

— Can you say a few words about the seminar that you gave to the HSE faculty, please?  

— I was talking about mechanism design again, but in particular about some recent findings and discoveries in this field. I concentrated on three issues: one was to do with auction theory and the design of selling procedures; another with robustness mechanisms, which means the ability to design mechanisms which are not very sensitive to the details of what people know or don’t know; and the third issue was concerned with contracts and agreements between buyer and seller. You can think of the design of contracts as the design of a particular kind of mechanism. Mechanism design theory certainly applies to contract design as well.

— Can we talk about your current research, please? What is the project you are most interested in at the moment?

— You know, what I find most interesting changes all the time. Well, I suppose we could talk about the conference in Germany I plan to take part in soon. And one thing I’m going to talk about there is the application of mechanism design to some problems of the European Union. One of them is connected to the fact that the responsibility for monetary policy has been given to the European Central Bank, while fiscal policy is determined by the individual countries of the EU. So there is a conflict between the centralized monetary policy and the decentralized fiscal policy. What I propose is that fiscal policy in Europe should be transferred to a quasi-independent authority like the European Central Bank which can operate independently of the governments of European countries.  The Bank is not a subject to a lot of political pressure, so fiscal policy would be free of political pressure as well. This might be one way of solving the problem of series of debt crisis that Europe faces.

— If I remember rightly, last spring you mentioned your joint project with Professor Fuad Aleskerov on traffic problems in Moscow.

— We are going to be talking about that later this week. So far we have had neither the time nor the opportunity to discuss this. Serious works remain to be done. If you ask me again during my next visit, I’ll probably be able to tell you more about it.

— What would you recommend to our students and young scholars in terms of their career development?

— I believe that the most attractive feature of academic work is that every researcher can choose what he or she wants to work on. It’s this independence that is the best thing. So, I guess, I would say to graduate students: ‘Take advantage of this independence and work on problems that really interest you. Don’t worry if they interest other people, but always work really hard. The secret of a successful career is not actually a secret: just do the things that you like and work as hard as you can to answer the most important questions. That’s it’.

Valentina Gruzintseva, HSE News Service

See also:

‘Green’ Taxes: An Analysis of Climate Policy Effectiveness

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Majority of CIS Economies Halt Growth

Experts from the HSE Centre for Business Tendency Studies (CBTS) analysed for the first time the growth of the manufacturing industry in CIS countries between 2004 and 2016. It was conducted within the framework of a regional project of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) “Improvement of industrial statistics and development of indicators of industrial performance for policy-relevant analysis in CIS countries”.

The Keepers of the Ruble

Post-Soviet life and the economic ups and downs of recent years have changed the attitude of Russians towards saving. Now, it is not the less fortunate who save, but the more intelligent, according to Elena Berdysheva and Regina Romanova. Or, more to the point, it’s the more intelligent women: domestic finances are usually dealt with by females. At HSE’s recent XIX April International Academic Conference, researchers explained how Russians adjusted and optimized family budgets following the crisis of 2014-2017 and how this relates to gender issues.

Marx’s Capital Was a Work in Progress

The notion that Karl Marx's works have been studied inside and out is fundamentally incorrect. The huge body of his manuscripts has still not been completely processed, and his seminal work, Capital, was only recently published with the final edits of the author. The 19th April Conference at the Higher School of Economics included the section ‘Methodology of Economic Science’ which was devoted to the work of the German philosopher and political scientist. Independent researcher and professor from Berlin, Thomas Kuczynski, gave a presentation at the conference which pointed out numerous aspects of Marx’s continuous rethinking of allegedly fixed truths.

Foreign Investments are Crucial for Positive Return on Exports

Experts at HSE have shown that the foreign direct investment is an important and necessary determinant for positive return on exports. Such companies consequently encounter a higher level of competition in terms of quality and intensity. Research results have been published in the Baltic Journal of Management.

‘Game Theory Teaches an Understanding of Opponents’ Behaviour’

The first student contest in game theory has taken place at HSE. Organized by the HSE Group of Young Academic Professionals, it brought together 150 undergraduate and Master’s students from 17 Russian universities, as well as one high school student from Moscow.

What Mitigates the Consequences of Recession for Companies?

HSE experts demonstrated that companies with foreign participation have an easier time overcoming the consequences of economic recessions. The results of the study were presented in the paper ‘Lean against the wind: The moderation effect of foreign investments during the economic recession in Russia’ published by the Journal of Economics and Business.

'HSE Was Able to Become a Success in a Short Period of Time'

Oleg Ananyin, Tenured Professor, Professor in the Department of Theoretical Economics (Faculty of Economic Sciences), Academic Supervisor of the ‘Politics. Economics. Philosophy’ master’s programme, Chairman of the Education and Teaching Methods Council, Member of the HSE Academic Council, spoke on his academic interests, as well as shared his thoughts on the development of HSE and Russian economic community.

ICEF Student Presents Report on ‘The Economy for Future Development’ to the Russian President

HSE ICEF student Alexander Lee delivered a presentation titled ‘The Economy for Future Development’ during the session ‘Youth 2030. The image of the future’ at the XIX World Festival of Youth and Students, which took place in Russia from October 14-22. The presentation was based on creative work and discussions held over the course of one week among a group of international students led by experts from ISSEK and Yuri Simachev, Director for Economic Policy. Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, took part in the event.

Student Work Experience Helps Graduates Win Higher Salaries

Sergey Roshchin, HSE Vice Rector, discussed the main trends in graduate employment at a panel discussion titled ‘University-Graduate-Business: How to Build Constructive Partnership’ organized by the Ural Federal University and Sistema Charitable Foundation as part of the XIX World Festival of Youth and Students in Sochi. The participants discussed the changes required in education due to growing competition and the approaches that universities and employers take to pooling efforts and creating a joint vision.