Intellectual arbitrage

Chris Blattman reflects on how few economists knew Elinor Ostrom, the recent Nobel laureate, before her award, and he sees major arbitrage opportunities:
There are vast amounts of relevant knowledge in related fields, seldom exploited. The economists have been pouring into the economics and psychology gap, but the economics-politics gap is just starting to close. Politics and behavioral psychology is still wide open territory.

Even within the disciplines there are gains from exchange. Just the other day I listened to a group of grad students suggest that political theory (i.e. philosophy) wasn’t answering questions relevant to other fields of politics. Sounds like a research frontier to me. Why, for instance, has political science left the human rights and humanitarian debates to ex-journalists?
This resonates with me, and I think this probably holds in the resources world (both in academia and in the private sector). I don’t have a tremendous amount of experience interacting with academics specializing in natural resources, but my sense is some lack the groundedness of having spent years working on the ground in the private sector (and obviously many actors in natural resources industries are not up to date with the latest academic thinking). And these opportunities hold between private sectors as well - Lord knows a deeper knowledge of the complexities of oil refining economics and markets would be of great use to many people working in biofuels, for example (I'm sure there are many others).

Trying to develop that type of broader perspective is one of the reasons I started and continue to enjoy this blog, and I highly recommend blogging to anyone else who is interested in the same thing!!

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