Motu, Excellence in Economic Research and the Challenges of “Human Dimensions” Research

"Economics as a 'trade' does very well in New Zealand. Economists are taken relatively seriously in government policy processes. For better or worse, economic ideas were major drivers of the reforms in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Plenty of well-paid job opportunities exist in the private sector and in government. Large numbers of economics undergraduates mean that economics departments in Universities are not under threat.

Economics as a science doesn't necessarily do so well. This article discusses some of the opportunities and challenges ahead in creating a vibrant economic research community in New Zealand that can usefully contribute to public policy. We bring particular attention to the challenges of producing good interdisciplinary work. Nearly all policy problems are multifaceted and cannot be understood using insights from one discipline alone.

Motu is a non-profit research institute that has been set up specifically to address these challenges. At the end of the article we outline our vision of how we are becoming part of the solution and give some suggestions for how the government and researchers could facilitate our and others' efforts."