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RESEARCH UNIT INTERDISCIPLINARY PUBLIC POLICY

UNDERSTANDING AND IMPROVING INDIVIDUAL AND INSTITUTIONAL DECISION-MAKING

Public institutions can only use their various policy instruments productively if they are able to adequately assess the effect they have on human behavior. Thus, the design of effective institutions and policies requires not only an understanding of the relevant and often interdependent social, economic, political, and legal contexts and mechanisms but it also requires a deep knowledge about how human beings make decisions. In order to obtain the necessary insights, the Interdisciplinary Public Policy (IPP) Research Unit constituted at JGU in 2014 incorporates a number of different disciplines: economics, business administration, political science, psychology, the neurosciences, computer science, and law.

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The IPP focuses on the following main questions: Under what circumstances should public institutions actively intervene in socio-economic systems? What form should this intervention take, e.g., environmental legislation, interest rate adjustments, measures to promote innovation or education? What would be the effects of intervention in the various forms? Would it really be possible to implement the intended changes in view of the given political/institutional situation in a state or a region? In order to find answers to these questions, it is necessary to conduct theoretical research into the economic, socio-psychological and neurobiological mechanisms that determine human decision-making and to undertake practice-oriented projects to investigate the effects of the specific policy measures under study.

The IPP Research Unit consists of the following four clusters:

  • Economic Policy: Some markets function well on national and global levels with only little bureaucratic regulation, while others require stricter controls. One of the core concerns in this cluster is to find the correct balance between self-regulation and government control.
  • The Behavioral Science cluster studies the factors that determine human behavior, i.e., psychological and neurobiological parameters, such as personality, neuronal predisposition, and also the influence of social networks. If these aspects are considered, it is possible to better predict not only individual determinants, such as educational and professional status and investment behavior, but also the functioning of markets.
  • The Political Science cluster examines the room for maneuver available to governments of national states in the economic and socio-political spheres in the light of globalization.
  • The capacity to process and evaluate large sets of data and expertise with regard to the use of innovative methods from the fields of Statistics, Econometrics, and Computer Science are an essential requirement for the work of the IPP Research Unit. This requirement is provided for through the Data Science cluster.

Innovative methods of data generation and analysis are the core cross-disciplinary skills available to the research unit. Quantitative and empirical methods as well as an approach inspired by experimental methodology used in the natural sciences not only link the research unit to other disciplines, but also represent a unique feature. The IPP Research Unit is also characterized by a number of features that have been systematically created in recent years. This includes collaboration with the Graduate School of Economics, Finance, and Management established in cooperation with the universities of Frankfurt and Darmstadt, innovative Master's degree programs offered by the JGU faculties participating in the IPP Research Unit, and a very active visiting academic program inviting prominent guests to Mainz.