Russia awards SMU’s Weber $3 million for research lab to study diversity, social interactions

Grant will establish first-of-its-kind research laboratory at Moscow’s New Economic School to focus on many types of societal diversity

Kremlin wall and Moskva river in early morning

A $3 million grant to SMU economics professor Shlomo Weber will fund the establishment of a first-of-its-kind research laboratory to study diversity and social interactions.

The new center at Moscow’s New Economic School will focus on research into the many different types of societal diversity, including economic, historical, geographical, linguistic and ethnic. Researchers at the center will assess the impact of societal diversity on economic, political and social development, said Weber, who is the Robert H. and Nancy Dedman Trustee Professor of Economics in the SMU Department of Economics.

Weber is a PINE Foundation Visiting Professor of Economics at the New Economic School, where President Obama delivered the 2009 commencement address and declared a reset on Russian-American relations.

“This kind of support is quite unique in the world,” he said. “Our team of Russian and foreign scholars will do their best to contribute to the study of Russia’s social and economic development in the past, present and future.”

Grant supports theoretical and empirical aspects of research into diversity
Ranked the best economics institution in the former communist countries, NES is a private graduate school in economics. Its mission is to benefit Russia’s private and public sectors through excellence in economics education and research. Faculty-in-residence include economists with doctoral degrees in economics and finance from the world’s leading universities.

Members of the SMU economics faculty will have a chance to participate in research at the laboratory, especially in studies of social and trade networks and development, Weber said. SMU economics doctoral students will have opportunities for internships.

Every year, 15 to 20 graduates of the NES Master’s program join the top doctoral economics programs in the United States. Many leading economics and finance departments have NES alumni on their faculty. SMU Assistant Professor Anna Kormlitzina, in SMU’s Department of Economics, is a graduate of NES.

“The award of this grant is remarkable evidence of NES’s progress over the 20 years of its existence,” Weber said. “I’m grateful to the government of the Russian Federation for the decision to support theoretical and empirical aspects of diversity and social interactions, focused but not limited to Russian economy and society.”

Research will examine how diversity impacts social interactions, trust, emergence of social networks
The grant is part of an annual program by the Russian Federation that supports research supervised by the world’s leading scholars. Weber was one of 700 applicants, 42 of whom were awarded funding.

The research will be conducted on theoretical, empirical and experimental grounds and will examine how diversity impacts social interactions, trust and emergence of various types of social networks and on the quality and functioning of public and private institutions.

Weber’s grant was the only one awarded within the discipline of “Economics and Business.” Grants were awarded on the basis of the scientist’s scientific achievements, research experience and research prospects of the project; sponsoring organization; and leadership potential of the research laboratory being established.

The grant carries a possible two-year extension. Winners of the competition personally lead the laboratory for a minimum of four months each calendar year.

Grant will bring together the world’s leading scholars on diversity
“This grant will help to bring together the world’s leading scholars, including Nobel winners Robet Aumann, from Hebrew University, and Eric Maskin, from Harvard, and leading authorities in their respective fields — Stephen Durlauf, Wisconsin, and Matt Jackson, Stanford — as well as young scholars and students,” Weber said. “The decision to award this grant recognizes the success of NES in implementing its mission to benefit Russia’s private and public sectors through excellence in economics education and research. It also provides support for further development of the school’s research capacity.”

Weber’s expertise includes consulting in Eastern and Western Europe and in Central and Southeast Asia. He currently coordinates an Open Society Institute development project at the National University of Mongolia.

Weber’s recent book, with economist Victor Ginsburgh, “How Many Languages Do We Need? Economics of Linguistic Diversity” (2011, Princeton University Press), will be followed later this year by a volume edited with economist Michael Alexeev, “The Oxford Handbook of Russian Economy.”

Weber earned his doctoral degree in mathematical economics from Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from Moscow State University.

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