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Economics and community knowledge-making

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Abstract

Knowledge-making is a social activity. In this essay, I discuss how the economics discipline may be becoming a bit more cognizant of this fact, even though it goes against a long habit of imagining objectivity to be something attainable by lone (traditionally male) researchers. One promising recent development is the increasing attention being paid to community checks on empirical work in the form of meta-analysis, pre-registered studies, and replication. Another is the recent effort towards professional diversity and inclusion undertaken by leaders of the American Economic Association. To illustrate the importance of these two initiatives, I give an example of how community checks and inclusion of an historically marginalized perspective have exposed biases in previous – supposedly ‘rigorous’ – empirical behavioral economics research. Yet the acknowledgement that knowledge-making is social needs to expand further, into influencing not only how work, but what we work on, and what we work for.

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