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RSSIA 2014: It's Best to Talk about Research in Seven Lines or Less

Between June 28 and July 4, the Russian Summer School on Institutional Analysis (RSSIA 2014) took place near Moscow. Aside from the theoretical and practical aspects of institutional economics, also discussed were issues related to the development and presentation of academic research.

Though the RSSIA bears a Russian name, the make-up of its participants is traditionally international. This year, students came to the school from Germany, the Netherlands, Romania, Poland, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and of course, Russia. RSSIA hosted experts John Nye (George Mason University, HSE), Sebastian Galiani (University of Maryland), Alexander Teytelboym  (MIT), Koen Schoors (Ghent University), Michael Waterson (University of Warwick), Marian Moszoro (University of California, Berkeley), and Maria Yudkevich (HSE).

Some experts suggested discussing the theoretical and methodological issues of conducting institutional research at the school; for example, Sebastian Galiani talked about procedures for hypothesis testing, and Marian Moszoro — about using qualitative content analysis in researching contracts.

Koen Schoors gave an overview of the functioning of financial institutions in the European Union and in Russia. In addition, Alexander Teytelboym gave ​​three lectures. In the first two, he discussed the delayed recognition algorithm (Gale-Shapley algorithm), also widely known as the stable marriage problem, which is most simply summarized as follows: it is necessary to make married couples out of brides and grooms in such a way that the husband from one family and the wife from another are not attracted to each other more than they are attracted to their legitimate spouses. In the language of science, the task is to find stable correspondences between the elements of majorities that have certain preferences.

In the third and final presentation, Alexander Teytelboym presented the results of his work ‘Friending,’ devoted to the study of structures formed by college students on the social network Facebook. Teytelboym and his colleagues found that students who live close to one another or who attend similar courses tend to become friends on online networks. Note that Teytelboym was the only expert who proposed school students perform ‘homework’, though it was not so trivial — come up with a model of the online dating market.

Other experts presented their new empirical work. John Nye talked about an unusual project he is working on with researchers from HSE’s Centre for Institutional Studies. The researchers asked how biological determinants, such as the level of prenatal testosterone and body mass indexes, affect economic factors, in particular, students' performance and wages. They were able to figure out that the level of prenatal testosterone has no effect on men, but is nonlinearly associated with salary estimates for girls.

In addition, John Nye gave a lecture traditional for the RSSIA on the public presentation of research. Do you want others to follow your presentation with interest? Then each slide should have no more than seven lines, and each line — no more than seven words. John Nye also shared the secret of how to deal with passivity and with losing the audience’s interest (the ‘glass eye’ effect). As Professor Nye noted, simply changing the tempo and style of lecturing can increase audience involvement.

The research of another RSSIA 2014 expert, Mike Waterson, is related to the analysis of states’ actions towards nuclear power plants after the Fukushima tragedy. In particular, Germany decided to abandon nuclear energy, which has led to increased demand for energy. In developing Mike Waterson’s theses, school participants suggested a number of ideas for future research – for example, studying the electricity market in Russia and the consequences of abandoning daylight saving time.

School participants presented their own projects at the school, though it was necessary for them to do this twice — first in the framework of a general meeting, and second — in narrower specialized groups ). School participants were divided into three groups: one engaged in the study of state regulation, the second — corporate governance and the banking sector, and the third — the economics of education.

Additionally, Sun Huojun (Erasmus University Rotterdam) is conducting experimental research on trust and social norms; Daniel Shestakov (HSE) is investigating the effect of road construction on human capital in Tsarist Russia; and Alina Malkova (New Economic School) is studying the process of scientific knowledge diffusion and Russia’s place in the global academic space. These projects have not yet been completed, however.

Sofia Dokuka, specially for the HSE news portal

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