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Where the QALY's at in political science?

by Timothy_Liptrot1 min read5th Aug 20207 comments

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Say you are a driven young political scientist with both quant and qual skills. What questions in political science have the most expected utility waiting to be unlocked? Which questions are most tractable, important and neglected?

If possible, point me to previous posts on the topic.

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I think that the complexity of political systems mean that you can't work out a dinky formula for the best expected utility. You might enjoy this post on global development, and also this list which includes some important topics.

I'm currently particularly interested in authoritarianism and safeguarding democracy.

And also, if you're a young political scientist, with these skills, then you don't need to defer to others - what do you think they are yourself?

1Timothy_Liptrot4moI am currently working on posts outlining just those questions, but wanted to check for past work. I hope to use H&H's tools, that post is so clear and compelling. My intuition says that the juiciest QALYs are in scalable nation-wide interventions in developing countries, think poor economics for governance. I also expect the juiciest QALY's in poor authoritarian governments. That said Eva Vivalt's work might have higher expected returns just due to the sheer neglectedness of the field. Its stunning how few people are applying Kahneman-style bias research to political decision-makers. My main concern with following her agenda is that it might not be rewarded in the PoliSci journals and hiring committees.

Effective Thesis has some suggested topics within political science.

Great power war/conflict?

If you were this person, I think you would go into politics rather than political science. Policymakers mostly don't listen to political scientists, and the replication crisis is reason enough that this is mostly the right choice on their part. Even if your work is good, finding it among the trash would require more work than studying the issue in house. So this creates a feedback loop--competent poli sci graduates go into practical politics, lowering the quality of academic political scientists, giving politicians less reason to listen to them, further pushing competent graduates into practical politics...

See, e.g. https://www.questia.com/magazine/1G1-176979334/the-absent-professor-why-politicians-don-t-listen

1Timothy_Liptrot4moLooks interesting. Unfortunately the article is paywalled. I agree that the median political scientist produces ~0 utility, and the average produces much less than an economist. Still there may be some political scientist producing lots of utility.
1Bluefalcon4moWell, I think you could if you could 1) do really high quality research, and 2) find ideas that don't require policymakers' buy-in to be implemented, or convince policymakers to be less skeptical of political science than they are. So I guess my original comment is partially incorrect; I think perhaps you could do something useful as a scholar if you talk to policymakers in an issue area you're interested in before starting your research, and ask them what gaps in their knowledge they can't find good information to fill.