Thursday, October 19, 2017

Barcelona Talk

I'll be giving a presentation in the "distinguished speakers series" at ICAT, Autonomous University of Barcelona on 5th December. I just wrote the abstract:

The Role of Energy in the Industrial Revolution and Modern Economic Growth

Abstract: Ecological and mainstream economists have debated the importance of energy in economic growth. Ecological economists usually argue that energy plays a central role in growth, while mainstream economists usually downplay the importance of energy. Using the (mainstream) theory of directed technological change, I show how increasing scarcity of biomass could induce coal-using innovation in Britain, resulting in the acceleration in the rate of economic growth known as the Industrial Revolution. Paradoxically, industrialization would be delayed in countries with more abundant biomass resources. However, as energy has become increasingly abundant, the growth effect of additional energy use has declined. Furthermore, both directed technological change theory and empirical evidence show that innovation has increasingly focused on improving the productivity of labor rather than that of energy. This explains the focus of mainstream economic growth models on labor productivity enhancing innovation as the driver of economic growth.

The paper will draw on my 2012 paper with Astrid Kander – it shares the same title after all – my recent working paper with Jack Pezzey and Yingying Lu, and maybe my ongoing work with Akshay Shanker on understanding trends in energy intensity in the 20th and 21st Centuries. The talk is for an interdisciplinary audience, so that will be challenging, but I think I can do it :)

Political Bias in My Teaching?

I've long been curious about what students in my classes think about my political position. So, I finally decided to ask them. I added a bonus question for 1 point on top of the 100 points available for the final exam in my Energy Economics course. The question read:

Bonus question (1 point): 
This question relates to potential political bias in my presentation of the course material. Based on the content of the course, which political party do you think I voted for in the last Federal senate election?

a. Greens
b. Labor
c. Liberal
d. Liberal Democrats
e. Australian Sex Party
f. Christian Democratic Party

Actually, ten parties ran at the last election for the two available senate seats representing the ACT, but I thought it would be better to keep the list a little more manageable.

The distribution of answers was as follows:

Greens: 2
Labor: 5
Liberal: 5
Liberal Democrats: 5
Australian Sex Party: 0
Christian Democrats: 0

Assuming that everyone who picked Liberal Democrats knows what it is - a libertarian party - there is a perceived rightward bias. But there are a lot of foreign students who might assume it is a more centrist party. Or people might have assumed that if I listed a bunch of parties they hadn't heard of, one of those must be the right answer.

What would no bias look like? Maybe something more like Green 2, Labor 7, Liberal 7, Liberal Democrat 1 or 3,7,6,1, which is closer to the voting pattern. Or maybe even further to the left as most academics including economists in Australia probably vote for Labor, so that would be the default assumption unless they perceived a strong bias in my teaching?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

What Do Crawford School Economists Do?

I'm doing quite a bit of background work for our School Review, a review of the Future of Asia-Pacific Economics etc. The following table is based on the self-identified "Fields of Research" of core Crawford economics faculty. Most people chose more than one field. If, for example, someone chose three fields, then I attributed 1/3 of an FTE to each for that person. The result looks like this:

Our research foci are economic development and growth, environmental and resource economics, and international economics and finance. The (non-geographical) fields that we rank best in globally in RePEc are: Environment 7, Energy 7, Resources 11, Agriculture 23, Growth 29, International Trade 32, Development 39. So, this focus also is where we perform well.

Most Crawford economists have countries that they focus on. Using a similar approach I put together this table:

Naturally, Australia is number one, then follow China, Japan, Indonesia, and Vietnam. In RePEc, we rank 4th in the SE Asia ranking, 18th in Central/Western Asia (which actually includes South Asia), and 39th in the China subject ranking. This reflects more of our historical focus, while the current faculty is more focused on NE Asia. We don't have any current faculty with a professed interest in Thailand, for example! Of course, there is also less competition in research on SE Asia than on China and so that will also affect our ranking.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Impact Factors for Public Policy Schools

As part of our self-evaluation for the upcoming review of the Crawford School, I have been doing some bibliometric analysis. One thing I have come up with is calculating an impact factor for the School and some comparator institutions. This is easy to do in Scopus. It's the same idea as computing one for an individual or a journal, of course. I am using a 2016, 5 year impact factor. Just get total citations in 2016 to all articles and reviews published in 2011-2015. Divide by the number of articles. Here are the results with 95% confidence intervals:

The main difficulty I had was retrieving articles for some institutions such as the School of Public Affairs at Sciences Po. Very few articles came back for various variants of the name that I tried. I suspect that faculty are using departmental affiliations. I had a similar problem with IPA at LSE. So, I report the whole of LSE in the graph. It is easy to understand this metric in comparison to journal impact factors. As an individual metric the confidence interval will usually be large, though my 2016 impact factor was 5.9 with a 4.2 to 7.5 confidence interval. That's more precise than the estimate for SIPA.