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Financial crisis lab rats

Michael Jarvis's picture

This year's Nobel prize for economics went to Oliver Williamson and Einor Ostrom - both known for grounding their work in the real world. The committee perhaps wisely shunned researchers in finance or macroeconomics who are still coming to terms with the financial crisis and global recession. No such shyness from the judges for the Ig Nobel Prizes - committed to showcasing improbable research that makes you laugh and think. They found a way to reward those who have tested financial market models through all too real experience, giving their economics prize to the management and auditors of four Icelandic banks for demonstrating that "tiny banks can be rapidly transformed into huge banks, and vice versa - and for demonstrating that similar things can be done to an entire national economy."

The Ig® Nobel Prizes - now in their 19th year - make for entertaining reading. Where else can you see 3 true Nobel Laureates, including Paul Krugman, wearing brassieres that convert to face masks? Yet they provoke discussion about the purpose of research and the value of unpredictable, unintended results. Could we champion an award to highlight improbable research and projects in the World Bank Group? I welcome nominations.

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