Rebooting Social Science
The interdisciplinary Tobin Project addresses real-world problems.
Doing that work well has come to involve a network of more than 400 scholars affiliated with 80 institutions, pursuing truly interdisciplinary research. “It’s a really amazing model,” says Poorvu family professor of management practice Arthur Segel, one of the organization’s founding board members. “With very little money, we’ve got hundreds of scholars doing research on important issues together.”
Yet that institutional innovation has proved to be far less challenging than the definition of worthwhile queries to pursue: large problems on which social scientists can engage each other productively, make meaningful discoveries, and shape both society and the future of research.
Today, the first (and, some would say, most important) step in any Tobin inquiry is the identification of good questions. ... Rather than pursue the original dozen fields, the project currently focuses on four areas:
- government and markets (the conditions for successful regulation of the economy);
- institutions of democracy (the aspects of government, business, and civil society that are central to the functioning of American democracy);
- national security (how the United States can advance its security interests in light of fiscal constraints and changes in the global distribution of power); and, since 2009,
- economic inequality (the consequences of widening income disparities for the U.S. economy, society, and politics).