European awards for Oxford social scientists

Three Oxford Social Sciences academics have today been awarded major European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grants to fund cutting-edge projects into the future of work, trade and economic theory.

The highly-coveted awards, funded through the European Union, are each worth more than one million euros and will allow the two economic researchers and one legal expert to build their own teams, carry out pioneering research, and expand learning into exciting new areas.

Dr Abi Adams-Prassl

Dr Abi Adams-Prassl in the Department of Economics has won an award for her FEMPOWER project, ‘Measuring Female Bargaining Power & Inefficient Family Decision Making’.

When analysing household decision-making, economists usually assume a utopian scenario characterised by cooperation and commitment. Not only do a range of common family behaviours fall outside the scope of these frameworks but, crucially, their policy prescriptions can result in adverse and unintended consequences. For example, some policy interventions aimed at improving women’s bargaining power have been found to increase violence against women in some contexts. FEMPOWER will harness a number of new large-scale data sources and develop innovative empirical tools to interrogate how family decision-making works in contexts including domestic violence and divorce.

Dr Adams-Prassl said ‘I'm thrilled to receive this award, and for FEMPOWER to have the backing of the European Research Council. A better understanding of household decision-making is crucial to ensuring policy design that reduces the likelihood of harmful consequences for women. In our current climate of economic uncertainty and increased pressure on families, the aims of this project have never been more important.’


teytelboym image i dr alex teytelboym

Dr Alexander Teytelboym, also in the Department of Economics, has been granted funding for DUALMARKETS, ‘Duality in Market Design: Theory and Applications’.

One of the first problems students encounter in economics is how to allocate a divisible resource - like a cake - among people who have limited budgets. In practice, such allocation problems often involve indivisible resources. For example, the government might decide to run an auction in order to figure out which electricity companies should build new power stations (which are indivisible). Economists use tools from the field of market design to suggest how best to run such auctions. It turns out that allocating a cake is a lot easier than procuring power stations. DUALMARKETS will develop new tools to better allocate indivisible resources among market participants with limited budgets.

Dr Teytelboym said: ‘I’m delighted and honoured to receive the ERC Starting Grant. DUALMARKETS will tackle market design problems in which participants cannot always afford what they want to have. My main aim in this project is to inject ideas from classic microeconomics into the theory and applications of market design. The grant will allow me to focus on time-intensive theoretical research, foster new collaborations, and hopefully inspire young economists to work on market design.’


Professor Jeremias Adams-Prassl

Employment law Professor Jeremias Adams-Prassl, from the Faculty of Law, has been awarded funding to set up an interdisciplinary team and rethink ‘Employment law for a world of algorithmic management’.

Whether it’s hiring new staff, managing a large workforce, or even selecting workers for redundancies, sophisticated algorithms are increasingly taking over traditional management tasks. While they have successfully been used to catch out insider trading and help staff find career opportunities in large organisations, things can just as quickly go wrong: last month’s A-level fiasco demonstrates the (entirely predictable) risks of blindly entrusting life-changing decisions to automation. Professor Adams-Prassl's team will examine how we should go about regulating AI at work, promoting the importance of social dialogue in deciding how to adapt software and data-capture to specific circumstances.

On receiving his award, Professor Adams-Prassl said ‘I’m delighted to receive this award, which will help us to challenge the myths of the future of work. There’s nothing predetermined in tech development – it’s our choices today that will ensure that tomorrow’s workplace is innovative, fair, and transparent.’

Read more about Professor Adams-Prassl's project on the Oxford Science Blog

Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: 'With European Research Council grants, the EU is leveraging the talent and curiosity of some of the best young researchers in Europe. Their ideas are set to break fresh ground and open new ways to deal with pressing challenges in the areas of health, energy and digital technologies, as well as many other fields. Our ambition to effectively tackle current and future crises depends on our strong will to continuously and increasingly support top research at the frontiers of our knowledge.'

Learn more about the ERC Starting Grants 2020