NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) hosted an inaugural, public event to mark the opening of its research center, Center for Behavioral Institutional Design (C-BID), a first-of-its-kind institution in the United Arab Emirates that conducts cutting-edge research in behavioral social science and use the insights it obtains to inform and improve public policymaking.
The event brought together more than 70 attendees, featured several pre-recorded videos of high-profile speakers from the UAE government, as well as world-renowned experts in the field of behavioral social science, including Undersecretary of the Abu Dhabi Department of Community Development, H.E. Eng. Hamad Ali Al Dhaheri; Founder and Director of the Program on Behavioral Economics and Public Policy at Harvard Law School, Cass Sunstein Professor of Economics at Stanford University and 2012 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, Al Roth.
The center will be led by Global Network Professors of Economics in NYUAD’s Social Science Division John Wooders and Nikos Nikiforakis, together with other lead researchers, Associate Professors of Economics at NYUAD Olivier Bochet and Ernesto Reuben.
Behavioral social science studies the complexity and diversity of human behavior. Instead of relying exclusively on models from classical economics that assume people are perfectly rational, the field uses insights from the behavioral sciences, including psychology and the cognitive sciences, to better understand and predict behavior.
“The process of designing a behavioral policy or intervention to address a social issue is - or should be - the same as that followed by leading scientists around the world trying to identify the most effective vaccine against COVID,” added Nikiforakis. “You first diagnose the causes of a problem, you then design a treatment, you test the treatment, and then implement the most successful of them. In C-BID, before proposing a treatment to a social issue, we study carefully the specific socio-economic context in which a policy is to be embedded through new data collection and rigorous empirical analysis.”
In addition to its cutting-edge scientific research and policy advice, the Center will play a critical role in building capacity in behavioral social science through partnerships with the government; this will include offering new courses to train local talent, and planning executive education programs for existing government and private sector employees.
“Market design is never something that economists just do by themselves, it always involves collaboration,” said Professor of Economics at Stanford University and 2012 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics Al Roth at the event.
C-BID’s establishment falls in line with NYUAD’s vision to be one of the world’s great research universities and to address complex challenges of global significance and local relevance. Applying research from behavioral social science to real-world problems is also in line with the 2030 Economic Vision for Abu Dhabi’s core goals, including: building an open, efficient, effective, and globally integrated business environment; driving significant improvements in the efficiency of the labor market; and developing a highly-skilled, highly-productive workforce.
In addition to bringing together faculty from across the NYU Global Network, C-BID will also work directly with local, regional and international policymakers, as well as world-renowned economists, psychologists, sociologists, neuroscientists and other experts spanning the social and behavioral sciences, to establish a globally-recognized knowledge hub for behavioral social science and public policymaking in Abu Dhabi.