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'We are not making things easier, but we do offer new insights'

Datum bericht: 24 april 2021

Profit without loss - Economy

Economists from Nijmegen have a special place in the Netherlands. In their teaching and research, as well as their contributions to society, they offer different points of view on real-world issues.

”We don’t use the term Economy+ for nothing,” says Esther-Mirjam Sent, Professor of Economic Theory and Economic Policy. “We study current issues and look at them from multiple perspectives. For example, you could look at a company’s production from the old economic perspective – in terms of profit and loss – but you can also ask what unintended side-effects there are, how employees are stimulated and motivated, and what the company means to society’s well-being. You then approach the issue from the perspective of behavioural economics or happiness economics.”

Economists also include insights from other disciplines in their research and teaching. “Think political science, public and business administration, geography, spatial planning and environmental science,” says Sent. “Our multi-faceted faculty offers many chances for this, and encourages this approach too.”

No ivory tower economists

Sent has a wide range of research topics herself. “My area of research is about positioning economics as a science in relation to other sciences. With questions like: Why are economists seen as an authority? What inspires them in their research? How are economic insights translated into policy? This area is mainly of a philosophical and historical nature.”

The other part of her research portfolio is more applied. It involves research into gender bias in negotiations and choice overload in economic decisions, for example. “My colleagues also look at questions like: how do countries achieve sustainable economic development, what effects do rewards have in the financial sector and how should inclusion be organised in schools? So, real-world issues. We are certainly not ivory tower economists. We are fascinated by the wealth of economic issues and want to bring a wealth of insights to them.”

New insights

The research results find their way into society in many different ways. In Sent’s case, they come through her work as a member of the Senate. “I think it is essential that policy proposals and legislation use the latest scientific knowledge. I pay attention to that in political debate. I also make podcasts, give lectures, do interviews for the media, and so on. My colleagues are very active in those areas as well.”

Society sometimes has to get used to the broad Nijmegen approach, Sent notes. “The old economic way of thinking, in terms of profit and loss, is precise and simple. Concepts like gross domestic product can be calculated. But the new method of economic thinking is complicated: how do you measure broad prosperity or happiness? We also show that you can steer policy financially, or by designing infrastructure in such a way that it encourages certain behaviour, through nudging for example. It is cheaper than financial incentives, but the outcomes cannot always be accurately predicted. So we are not making things easier, but we do offer new insights. What we see is that society needs this.”

Profit without loss is about responsible governance which aims for a sustainable society. Research and education at the Nijmegen School of Management has a specific focus on solving issues at large in society. Want to know more? Visit our website for more information about our themes.