The heart of NYU Wagner's programs is our faculty. An amalgam of full-time, clinical/research/visiting, and adjunct professors, they are outstanding teachers, expert researchers and committed practitioners.
Professor John Gershman writes:
The recent WikiLeaks document dump and the associated reporting by several prominent newspapers have made many researchers enthusiastic and fanned the flames of hyperbole both on the part of WikiLeaks and its detractors. Both sides exaggerate the significance of the leaks, and the hyperbole obscures more significant issues.
The documents cover a period from 1966 to February 2010 from a range of embassies and personnel. The ones involving Iran and the Middle East garner the greatest attention, although most are unsurprising to anyone who follows the region. One less widely reported view is that of former National Security Council staffer Gary Sick, who argues that the documents indicate that the Obama administration has yet to seriously try an engagement strategy with Iran and that Washington has largely resisted the drumbeat for attacking Iran from its allies in the region.
The broader question is whether these kind of leaks lead to longer-term difficulties for the pursuit of U.S. foreign policy. To the extent those policies include the routine use of diplomats as spies, it will be a good thing if the leaks reduce those efforts.
But some ask: Will foreign leaders will be less willing to be forthright in their views and opinions if they think they will appear soon on the internet?
Short answer: probably not. CNN tweets that while calling another government to talk about the leaks, Secretary Clinton was told, "Don't worry about it, you should see what we say about you."
Others have asked: Will U.S. diplomatic personnel be less forthright about their own opinions or expressing the views of others in diplomatic cables.
Again: probably not. Perhaps the language will be less colorful.
Will the now ramped-up security measures for these and presumably other types of documents inhibit the kind of information sharing that was pointed to as missing prior to the 9/11 attacks. Short Answer: Possibly -- but getting the balance right takes time.
Finally, will the leaks will make some countries whose cooperation with the U.S. is unpopular at home retreat from their collaboration. Short Answer: Possibly in the short-term.
Don't Buy the Hype
But those may not be the most important dimensions of WikiLeaks' impact.
"Cablegate" - as the document dump has been dubbed -- is in some ways a form of celebrity shock journalism, the equivalent of a s speech by Bono on African poverty monopolizing press attention while the people who have been working in the trenches on these issues for decades get overlooked. Outfits like the National Security Archive, Open the Government, and freedominfo -- among many others -- slog away on a daily basis, working to hold officials accountable and do the nitty-gritty work required to make the Freedom of Information Act meaningful and governments around the world more open and accountable.
Cablegate has, in fact, sparked a valuable debate on the benefits and limits that transparency can and should play in foreign policy. This kind of debate will only strengthen our democratic institutions as we publicly debate and identify the benefits and risks associated with secrecy. For example, even Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame suggested that some things should remain secret, at least for a period of time. Recent experiences suggest that such a debate is an important and valuable one -- and that this is potentially a benefit that far outweighs the short-term risks to the conduct of foreign policy.
What's your opinion? Comment HERE.
New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley was the keynoter at the "Speeding Summit" held at NYU Wagner on November 19, 2010 -- and he pledged a major new public health emphasis on urban design.
"After quitting smoking, there's probably no behavior that promotes health more than regular physical activity," said Dr. Farley. "Okay, that's great. So what are we going to do about that? To me, the answer to that is thoughtful urban design and transportation infrastructure. "
The event, sponsored by the nonprofit group Transportation Alternatives, examined a proposal by cycling and other traffic safety advocates to reduce the side-street speed limit from 30 mph to 20 mph, and was hosted by the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management at NYU Wagner.
More than 200 researchers, practitioners and business leaders convened in New York City for a first look at research results on the impact of microfinance. The Microfinance Impact and Innovation Conference 2010, co-hosted by the Financial Access Initiative (FAI) at NYU Wagner and other leading research and financial institutions, was held Thursday, October 21st; 22nd; and 23rd at headquarters of the Deutsche Bank and the Moody's Corporation.
The research presented at the Conference follows on the heels of an initial report, released in 2009, about the first-ever randomized evaluations of microfinance, which sparked a debate over whether and how much microfinance is helping the poor. The results of several follow-up studies presented at the latest Microfinance Impact and Innovation Conference offer fresh insights on how and to what degree microfinance affects the lives of poor households around the world.
"The results of the first microfinance impact evaluations were controversial because the world was eager to find that one magic bullet that will finally "solve" poverty," said Esther Duflo, co-author of one of the first-ever impact evaluations of microfinance in India, and professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "The studies showed that microfinance is not magic. But while we didn't discover that microfinance launches people out of poverty, we did discover that it's making a very real difference to some people. The new, forthcoming research will help us discover more about who benefits from microfinance and help us design financial products that work better for the poor."
The Microfinance Impact and Innovation Conference 2010 attracted senior researchers, policymakers, practitioners and investors committed to preparing the next generation of thinkers and leaders in microfinance, and to the global expansion of financial markets in poor communities. The event was hosted by not only the Financial Access Initiative (FAI), but also by Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), Moody's Corporation, Deutsche Bank and the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP).
Important new impact results from a randomized evaluation of a microfinance program in Morocco were aired, along with evaluations of microsavings and microinsurance, and livelihood programs for the "ultra poor." Conference sessions were devoted to the presentation of new research on microfinance product design, social performance measurement, and consumer protection. Additionally, illuminating sessions were dedicated to bringing together researchers and practitioners to design future research on product design and financial inclusion that will help usher in the next generation of services for the "bottom billion."
A fascinating article in the Sunday magazine of The New York Times describes how techniques developed by behavioral science researchers are at the forefront of a dramatic change in how politicians and parties get out the vote. The emerging data-driven approach to moving voters was co-pioneered by Don Green, currently Visiting Distinguished Professor at NYU Wagner & NYU Abu Dhabi.
"As the 1998 elections approached, Green [and fellow Yale professor of political science Alan Gerber] partnered with the League of Women Voters to split 30,000 New Haven voters into four groups," the article explains. "Some received an oversize postcard encouraging them to vote, others the same message via a phone call or in-person visit. One control group received no contact whatsoever. After the election, Gerber and Green examined Connecticut records to see who actually voted. The in-person canvass yielded turnout 9.8 percent higher than for voters who were not contacted. Each piece of mail led to a turnout increase of only 0.6 percent. Telephone calls, Gerber and Green concluded, had no effect at all."
The Times article goes on to describe why the results have proven so seminal.
As it happens, the article appeared just a few days after Professor Green spoke at Wagner's doctoral colloquium October 28.
Green has written extensively on a range of topics, including voter turnout, campaign finance, perceptual bias, rational learning, experimental methods, and rational choice theory. He is currently writing a book on field experiments in the social sciences. His resume and other materials can be found here.
"The Forward 50" consists of "people whose religious and cultural values propelled them to engage, create and lead in a decidedly Jewish voice." Among the newly announced honorees: GOP congressman Eric Cantor, Supreme Court Justice Elana Kagan, Google co-founder Sergey Brin - and sociologist Steven M. Cohen, Director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at NYU Wagner.
BJBA recently collaborated on a case study of the Jewish community in the U.S., entitled "Baby Boomers, Public Service, and Minority Communities."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has long made it a paramount goal to rid New York City of unhealthful foods, and he recently asked the Federal government for permission to prohibit Food Stamp recipients from using stamps to buy soda and other sugared beverages in the city.
Supporters are cheering Bloomberg’s stance, saying he’s striking a blow for better dietary habits and ultimately lower public health costs and consequences such as obesity. But critics question the move, seeing it as an example of big government, even patronizing toward the poor.
Research can be a valuable guidepost for public officials. In 2009, after Mayor Bloomberg required restaurant franchises to put calories counts on their menus, NYU Wagner professors Rogan Kersh and Brian Elbel sought to measure the impact of the calorie labeling initiative on consumer habits at fast-food restaurants in low-income neighborhoods. Their survey of 1,156 adult found little direct evidence to support the Mayor’s view that the posting of calorie counts causes fast-food patrons to buy items containing fewer calories. Elbel’s and Kersh’s widely discussed study, published in the journal Health Affairs, emphasized that follow-up studies are needed to determine the value and effectiveness of menu labeling and other obesity-related policies.
Professor Elbel describes the Mayor’s current proposal to prohibit the use of food stamps for the purchase of soda and sugary drinks as “an extremely innovative policy approach to tackle the complicated and multifaceted problem of obesity. It deserves a rigorous assessment, to evaluate its overall impact on healthy food choice and obesity,” says Professor Elbel, assistant professor of medicine and health policy. “The rest of the nation can then learn from the New York City experience as these and other policies to fight obesity are considered across the country.”
What’s your opinion of the Mayor’s food stamp initiative? Is it good public policy? Or should it just be allowed to fizzle out? Visit Wagner’s Public Service Today blog to post your comment today.
The New York Times invited notable New Yorkers to personalize the iconic subway map. A concept submitted Mitchell L. Moss, professor of urban policy and planning at NYU Wagner, and Director of the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, was featured Oct. 22, 2010 -- including a stop named for Wagner itself.