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Why I Do Science: Gordon Rausser

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Economics uses theory and empirical observations to draw inferences, explain behavior, and predict the consequences of major events and changes in public policy. However, in economics, conducting experiments is often difficult and sometimes impossible. Instead, economists frequently turn to natural experiments offered by history or design experiments with sample respondents.

A key part of my scientific research is the design and structuring of incentives that motivate individuals and organizations to change their behavior. The field of resource economics, which encompasses agricultural and environmental economics, exhaustible and renewable resources, and global economic development, has acquired new stature with increasing awareness of sustainability risks. It is an area of inquiry heavily dependent on the biological sciences (bioeconomy), physical sciences (ecosystem management) and nutritional and toxicological science (health economics). At the College of Natural Resources, the opportunity for research that integrates economics and natural sciences is arguably the best in the world.

In a search for complementarities between economic growth and environmental quality, my research focuses on the development of analytical approaches to setting creative and enlightened public policy. My work demonstrates the importance of combining four analytical dimensions: incidence, mechanism design, political economy, and governance structures.

What I love about the study of economics and public policy is that our societal landscape continues to evolve, as in the recent global financial crisis and the emergence of renewable energy technologies. These developments offer continual opportunities for original and creative research, especially in the design and implementation of public policies and collective action.

-Gordon Rausser


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