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Skilled Migrants and Innovation

This blogpost is based on an article (see here for a link to the article ‘Understanding the Impact of Migration on Innovation’) I wrote for a Policy Forum in the June 2014 issue of the Australian Economic Review.

Although immigration debates in the popular press often focus on the perceived negative aspects – e.g. newcomers to a country are ‘stealing’ locals’ jobs –immigrants may actually stimulate innovation, thereby promoting job creation and enhancing productivity in their adopted homeland (in addition to filling shortages for skilled labour). There are a number of reasons why migrants – who could be permanent settlers, temporary workers (or students), or returning expatriates – might be a catalyst for innovation. For example, people movement is one of the main ways in which tacit knowledge moves between regions. Moreover, immigrants bring embodied experience and knowledge from outside cultures and economies. They also act as a circuit breaker for ‘group think’ which would otherwise limit the way societies approach problems.


What is Evidence-Based Policy? (Part II)

In Part I of this blogpost, I outlined the rationale for evidence-based policymaking. Part II focuses on the different approaches that could be used and their relative merits.

In order to determine the effects of a program, the analyst could adopt the following strategies:

i)                    Analyse a number of individuals before and after the ‘treatment’ (i.e. participation in the program). However, this approach will not help the analyst disentangle the effects of the treatment from other contemporaneous factors.

ii)                   Observe two identical individuals (one who receives government assistance and one who doesn’t) and observe them over time. However, it is impossible to have two identical individuals. If there are systematic differences between the two, then it is difficult to disentangle the effects of the policy from differences in the individuals.


What is Evidence-Based Policy? (Part I)

This blogpost comes from a recent Issues Paper I wrote for the Melbourne School of Government, which also contains a countervailing view from my outstanding colleague at the University of Melbourne, Professor Jenny Lewis.

Around election time, politicians often state their support for ‘evidence-based policy’. But what does this really mean and how do we distinguish strong evidence from weak evidence?

The ultimate goal of evidence-based policymaking is better public policies, thereby creating healthier and wealthier societies. Evidence-based policies should also provide taxpayers with more confidence that the Government is spending their hard earned money wisely. Once we agree that these are the right goals to strive for, the question is: how do we get there? Setting lofty, long-term goals is no doubt important, but there is much we can do in the short-term to evaluate how government policies are faring with regard to our ‘healthy and wealthy’ agenda.


A Guide to Choosing a PhD Topic (Part II)

Although it is impossible to give a definitive set of characteristics, there are some guiding principles about what constitutes a ‘good’ research question. There are three main characteristics –it must be novel, important, and tractable. The best research questions – which often lead to the best publications – fall in the intersection of these three domains.

What are novelty, importance and tractability? ‘Novelty’ essentially relates to the notion that your work must push back the frontier of knowledge. It must create something that is new to the world, not just new to your own country. This is probably much harder to do in some domains than others: for example, older (more mature) areas of inquiry that have been studied intensively by the brightest and best for the last 50 years are likely to pose a much tougher novelty requirement than newer areas of inquiry. There are obvious risk-reward trade-offs embedded in the novelty of your topic: with the potential of higher impact comes the fact that completion rates will fall and completion duration will increase.


A Guide to Choosing a PhD Topic (Part I)

There are a handful of excellent guides to different aspects of the academic profession that are invaluable to PhD students in economics. See here for a comprehensive summary.

As a complement to these guides, I want to focus on one specific (and often under-appreciated) choice that a young researcher makes: the choice of the PhD topic. Most students considering embarking on a PhD focus on more-immediate choices such as the institution and the choice of PhD supervisor rather than the choice of topic. All three choices, however, have persistent long-term effects on your career – and there is no good reason to under-estimate the importance of the choice of PhD topic.


Paul H. Jensen

In my spare time I like to write about music, dance like Billy Preston and eat foie gras like nobody's watching. Enjoy this blog!

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