Bob Sugden was successful in the European Research Council’s 2014 Advanced Grant competition. This competition is open to researchers in natural sciences, engineering, social sciences and humanities in any EU country. Advanced Grants are very prestigious awards, given to individual researchers and designed to support ‘already established research leaders with a recognised track record of research achievements’ who can demonstrate ‘the ground breaking nature, ambition and feasibility’ of their proposals.
Bob’s project is for theoretical, experimental and conceptual research on ‘Reconstructing normative economics on a foundation of mutual advantage’. It builds on three decades of work that he and his many co-researchers have done at UEA since he was appointed a professor in 1985. Bob was one of the pioneers of experimental and behavioural economics – a field that scarcely existed in 1985, but which is now a major area of economics. The project combines two themes which have been the focus of his recent work. One is his attempt to develop a form of normative economics which does not require the traditional economic assumption that individuals are highly rational, but which (in opposition to current trends in behavioural economics) is not paternalistic. The other is his theory of ‘team reasoning’, in which pro-social behaviour is explained in terms of individuals choosing to play their parts in mutually beneficial social arrangements. His aim is to develop criteria for evaluating economic policies and institutions based on a principle of mutual advantage.
Over the period 2016-2020, the award supports the work of a three-person team consisting of Bob, Andrea Isoni (Professor of Economics at Warwick Business School) and Jiwei Zheng, the senior research associate, based in CBESS. This team works in association with the ESRC Network for Integrated Behavioural Science, which links CBESS with analogous research centres at the Universities of Nottingham and Warwick.