Meeting with Nobel Laureates
From August 23rd-27th a meeting of Nobel laureates in economics took place in Lindau, Germany. This event is traditionally organized once every three years. Henry Penikas, lecturer at the HSE Department of Mathematical Economics and Econometrics and one of the participants at this meeting, told us about the event.
— Henry, please tell us more about the purpose of these meetings and who organizes them.
— There is a special international committee — Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings and the Foundation — which organizes meetings of Nobel laureates in various areas of science. This year there were gatherings of physicists, medics and economists. The administration of our university received an invitation from the committee and selected me and Veronika Belousova, senior lecturer at the Department of Banking, to represent the HSE at this event. The committee invites representatives from various organizations and academic institutions. Due to the current instability of the world’s markets, invitations were sent out to central banks of various countries. In total, 20 Nobel laureates in economics and about 370 young economists from 66 countries participated in the meeting.
— In addition to you and Veronika, who else represented Russia?
— Two more experts: New Economic School (NES) professor, Ruben Enikolopov, and Anna Gruzdova, chief economist at the Central Bank of Russia’s Department of Financial Market Operations who graduated from the HSE Faculty of Economics master’s programme in 2010.
— What happened after the HSE selected you as its candidate?
— After our nominations, we each had to fill out a detailed questionnaire and write an essay in order to get grants from the committee and sponsors. As a result, the international committee supported and paid for our accommodation and meals, and transport expenses were covered by our university.
— In your view, what were the main criteria for selection? What was in the questionnaire?
— The questions were mainly focused on the nominees’ achievements in industrial or academic spheres. For example, we had to list our five best publications with internet links, provide details of previous international conferences, mention previous teaching experience etc. It is clear that merely the desire to participate in an event with outstanding scientists is not sufficient grounds for an invitation. A deeper motivation is necessary as well as a professional portfolio (while it doesn’t have to be extensive) demonstrating that a nominee has made some sort of start already.
— In the morning, there were lectures by Nobel laureates – Roger Myerson, Daniel McFadden, Peter Diamond, Edward Prescott, Joseph Stiglitz… In the afternoon, there was usually a discussion with the laureates on a topical problem, for example, Europe’s recovery after the crisis or the sustainability of Europe’s development. Then there were meetings in small groups with each laureate: each laureate was given a separate room, and participants could choose who to join. After that, there was dinner and informal conversation. There were also other interesting forms of communication. For example, on one of the days an academic breakfast was organized which started at 7 a.m. dedicated to the problems of post-crisis recovery and work with system risks. On another day, a gala dinner was organized during which we had an opportunity to talk to the laureates over a glass of wine.
— Why was this trip important for you? And what do you remember the most?
— Firstly, it was a unique experience for me. I have taken part in many different international conferences, and if any new ideas were suggested there, they usually were about developing, deepening and improving something that already existed. In fact, I had never seen any important shifts in science, development of new approaches or conceptually new models. But during the meeting with Nobel laureates I have heard many new and unusual things. For example, Professor Stiglitz talked about the real necessity of a shift from the Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium (DSGE) macroeconomic model, used in many Central Banks of different countries, to a new model. This model is interesting and useful but has been developed without the participation of the banking sector. How the economics can be modeled without banks? It means that it is necessary to analyze the issues of the theory of general equilibrium differently and form a new economic paradigm. And laureate Prescott believes that instead of the term ‘macroeconomics’ it is necessary to use the term ‘aggregated economics’, which means economics based on microeconomic stimuli and principles.
Secondly, communication with scientists of this level broadens our horizons and enriches us with fresh ideas. However, what is more surprising and valuable is that when you talk to such extraordinary people freely and on equal terms, you come to an understanding that, in fact, they are people like us and it is possible to achieve a similar level. It is very difficult, but not impossible. This simple thought is very motivating and inspiring. You give up only if you feel that something is unachievable.
— Was there a cultural programme included?
— Yes, On the last day we went to the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, where the Swiss Minister of Finance and representatives of OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) spoke to the forum participants, followed by a discussion with the laureates. Then we went to Mainau Island This trip to the island by the participants occurs every time there is one of these events and has become something of a tradition.
Valentina Gruzintseva, HSE News Service
On May 21st 2011, Robert Aumann, Nobel laureate in economics and Professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, spoke at the HSE on ‘Rule Rationality vs. Act Rationality’. The lecture was organized by the HSE together with the Embassy of Israel in Russia.