Nobel Winner Smith to Depart; Mason to Continue Focus on Experimental Economics

Posted: July 26, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Daniel Walsch

Vernon Smith, professor of economics and law and 2002 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, plans to leave Mason in January 2008 and join the faculty at Chapman University in Orange, Calif.

Mason will build on the research initiated by Smith by hiring additional scholars to be part of the Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science (ICES), a research center and laboratory specializing in experimental economics that Smith founded. Additionally, Mason plans to maintain an affiliation with Smith, though details have not yet been agreed upon.

Smith, 80, and a team of economists came to Mason in 2001 from the University of Arizona thanks to a $3 million grant from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. Of this group, Kevin McCabe and Daniel Houser will remain at Mason to carry on the work of ICES. According to Jack Censer, dean of Mason’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the university will hire additional researchers to support McCabe and Houser and the center.

“We at Mason are very grateful to the service and contributions to our university that Vernon Smith made in his time with us. Our entire campus was honored to help Vernon celebrate the great tribute he received in 2002 when the international community recognized his groundbreaking work in experimental economics,” says Mason President Alan Merten. “We wish Vernon well and know he will continue his outstanding work at Chapman.”

In addition to founding ICES, Smith served as a fellow at Mason’s Mercatus Center. His work in experimental economics was considered revolutionary by many economists and was viewed as the primary reason he was selected for the Nobel Prize. His work is described as the application of the laboratory method to test the validity of various economic theories and new market mechanisms. Using cash-motivated students, his economic experiments created real-world incentives to help create a better understanding of why markets and other exchange systems work the way they do.

In 2002, Smith donated the cash award from the Nobel Prize to the International Foundation for Research in Experimental Economics (IFREE), a charitable education and outreach organization that he founded in 1997. IFREE funds research and national and international workshops in experimental economics; and supports graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and visiting scholars at Mason and other institutions.

Both McCabe and Houser have worked closely with Smith for years and have collaborated with him on a range of projects and articles in professional journals.

McCabe is a member of the board of directors and is a distinguished research scholar for IFREE. He is also a professor of economics and law at Mason.

Houser is a professor of economics at Mason who specializes in political economy, emotion and individual differences and experimental statistics and methods.

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