Behavioural Science Workshop Series

Lead Research Organisation: University of Stirling
Department Name: Management, Work and Organisation


The purpose of this series of seminars is to develop a leading network of researchers in behavioural science in the UK and Europe and to foster interdisciplinary exchange between researchers in economics and psychology. We have drawn on a strong network of links to academics and formal links to private sector organizations to develop the proposed series. The network of speakers is composed of academics from the UK, the US, the Netherlands, Germany, and Ireland. It also benefits from strong ties outside the academic sector including Gallup Europe, a leading policy-research consultancy company.

Collectively the 25 speakers who have committed to participate are world-leaders in the effort to address major economic and societal questions using frontier measurement methods, large-scale secondary databases, and innovative analytic solutions. However, a broad set of challenges exists that could constrain the progress of this research agenda. In particular, transcending disciplinary boundaries to understand key measures of well-being, personality, and biological functioning remains a challenge in economics. In psychology, there is a strong need for increased awareness of large-scale databases and for the skills needed to analyse and manage such data resources to be improved. We aim to generate inter-disciplinary exchange that will enhance the capacity of researchers from both economics and psychology to capitalize on recent data innovations in social science.

The six workshops in the seminar series will focus on topics strongly related to the ESRC's key priorities as set out in the ESRC's Delivery Plan 2011-2015. These include generating a better understanding of "economic performance and sustainable growth", "influencing behaviour and informing interventions", and a "vibrant and fair society". Each workshop in the series aims to enhance the interlinkages between theory, the design and usage of measurement tools, and their application to social issues and public policy.
Specifically, we aim to bring together economics and psychology in six key areas of research and practice where the natural linkage is especially high, each of which addresses a critical issue underpinning each of the ESRC priorities. The seminar series will focus on the following six major themes:

1) Secondary data and life-span models
2) Increasing the richness and frequency of social science survey data
3) Well-being
4) Preferences and personality
5) Biological markers in behavioural science
6) Behavioural science and public policy

This series aims to have significant long and short impact both outside the academic sphere and amongst the academic community. Immediately, knowledge will be disseminated and awareness of research tools and methods of immediate interest to several private and public sector organisations will be generated. In the long term, policy and interventions will be better informed with a better integration between psychology and economics developed through the process we begin here.

Planned Impact

In addition to the academic beneficiaries of this project, there are many agencies in the public and private sector that will benefit from engaging in these workshops and the associated research.

There are several ongoing policies in the UK that draw directly from the ongoing literature in this area. For example, the Cabinet Office Behavioural Insights team is important network of academics and policymakers applying behavioural science to public policy. We will ensure that all members of that network are invited to participate in and present at the set of workshops and seminars and will facilitate collaborations between academics and policy-makers in advancing the evidence base in this area.

We also intend the workshop to have impact on specific UK policies. For example, the pension autoenrolment programme currently being led by the Department of Work and Pensions is one of the most ambitious changes to the pension system in UK history and will affect as many as 13 million people directly over the next decade. How people respond to being auto-enrolled is a key question for policy. A number of the papers in these workshops will be on this theme and we will invite policymakers from all relevant departments and industry to participate in these seminars and discussions.

Through our links with agencies such as Gallup, the RAND Corporation, Grayling and others, we will ensure that industry and consultancy groups are well represented on the attendee lists. This will further facilitate the development of large-scale EU research funding applications and bolster the evaluative capability in this area in the UK.

The development of collaboration across disciplines in measuring and employing behavioural science constructs will facilitate better development of survey design and data-sets for use in national policy making.

The workshop theme area of wellbeing has the potential to impact directly on current UK governments initiatives on measuring and analysing directly public well-being. While this area has become an important priority for policy, much more is needed in discussing practical and scientifically rigorous methods for measuring and analysing these constructs. Our workshops will contribute to this agenda.

The development of bio-marker data-usage among wider social scientists in collaborative projects has a strong potential to improve knowledge about the determinants of health and the optimal policy mix for improving population health. Our workshops will contribute to this agenda by inviting world-class academic speakers as well as policy-makers and statistical agencies.

The development of better understanding of the link between economic preference and personality will enable potential breakthroughs in measurement and analysis in important policy areas. As mentioned above, pension participation is a key area of economics that needs to incorporate findings from wider behavioural science in order to understand the complex behavioural patterns observed in real-life pension decisions. Our workshops will place a heavy emphasis on practical applications of understand preference-personality linkages and will enable the development of new papers and models in key areas of policy.

We will produce non-technical summaries, blogposts and podcasts of all six workshops as part of the process of ensuring that the events have the widest dissemination. We will encourage debate on the greater integration of economics, psychology and health disciplines in understanding complex policy problems.


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Description This seminar series achieved its aim of further developing interdisciplinary exchange between the disciplines of economics and psychology on topics related to the ESRC's key priority areas (e.g. biosocial research, work and well-being, mental health and social science, high frequency measurement and 'big data') through a series of nine workshops hosted by the Stirling Behavioural Science Centre which attracted a broad set of leading UK and international researchers. Details of each of these workshops can be found at the link below.
Exploitation Route As this is a seminar series we do not have research findings from this grant.
Sectors Other