- Climate change and CO2 taxation, whereby the tax revenue should be distributed back to the population in the form of a climate dividend.
- How cryptocurrencies, digital euros and NFTs will influence the financial world of the future.
- In the area of communication, we explore how our behaviour and decisions vary with face-to-face vs. online (Zoom) vs. phone vs. email.
- Studies to improve the reliability of scientific research.
Climate change probably for everyone, but especially for policymakers.
Crypto issues and the digital euro, especially for banks and regulators.
The area of communication is probably relevant and interesting for everyone, since the pandemic has "forced" almost everyone, from schoolchildren to civil servants, to do a lot of things online.
Studies on scientific research are mainly relevant for other researchers.
- In the area of carbon pricing, we are currently conducting a large online experiment in the US (where opinions are much more polarised than ours) to explore how climate-damaging behaviour is influenced by different designs of a climate bonus. We vary whether everyone gets the same amount of tax revenue, or whether those who pollute less get more money. Our results, which we are very excited about, could be very relevant for policy makers.
- In the area of communication, we are conducting an experiment where two students communicate with each other either face-to-face, online (Zoom), by phone or by email and then have to make a decision that affects the earnings of both. Whereas with e-mail only written words are available, with telephone the voice is added, with Zoom also the picture, and with face-to-face body language also plays a role. We expect that there will be significant differences in decisions between the different forms of communication.
- To improve the reliability of scientific research, we have carried out the "Nobel and Novice" project: A scientific research paper written by a Nobel laureate and his PhD student (still unknown in the community) was sent out to hundreds of other researchers for peer review, as is common in scientific journals. 1/3 of the invited researchers did not see the author's name; 1/3 saw the Nobel laureate and 1/3 the PhD student. We were interested in how the assessment depended on the prominence of the author. Core result: when the Nobel laureate was shown as the author, the assessments and recommendations were dramatically better than when the PhD student or no author was shown. The hope that science is always perfectly "objective" is thus not completely fulfilled here.
My first laboratory experiments were enormously important for my development: together with my colleague Michael Kirchler, I programmed a stock exchange, invited 20 students to the computer laboratory and "played" through different market situations. At the beginning we varied the level of information of the traders (from the "ignorant" to the insider), later we investigated financial transaction taxes, the influence of bonus payments, and factors that can promote or reduce speculative bubbles. Through this work, Innsbruck became one of the leading centres internationally in the field of "Experimental Finance". We gained important insights, were able to raise research funds of several million euros, and learned a lot about markets ourselves. To this day, I like to use these markets in my teaching, and they are a lot of fun for the students.
Particularly instructive and enlightening for me in recent years have been projects in the area of "crowd research". In this field, hundreds of researchers are asked to answer the same research questions using the same data. What we are then interested in is the dispersion of the results, i.e. how much the researchers' assessments differ from each other - because if they research the same questions using the same data, the same (or very similar) results should be expected. However, so far we have found a very large scattering of results, and we think it is very important to make the scientific community aware of this. I write "we" because such large projects are only possible as a team effort of several (usually around 6-8) researchers who organise it.
Nationally, the FWF-funded special research area "Credence goods" is particularly worth mentioning. Over a total period of 8 years, about 30 researchers with different strengths work together on one overarching topic (i.e. "Credence goods" such as dental treatment or computer repair).
Internationally, it is not a fixed network, but the cooperation with esteemed colleagues that has been built up over several years and welded together through exciting joint projects, in my case for example with Anne Dreber and Magnus Johannesson from the Stockholm School of Economics and Utz Weitzel from the VU Amsterdam.
My PhD, in 2001 at the University of Innsbruck, was on the topic of "electoral exchanges", which are forecasting tools to predict the outcome of elections (but also other uncertain future events). Such electoral exchanges are often superior to polls because they use market mechanisms to collect and aggregate information.
My habilitation at the University of Innsbruck in 2008 was for the entire subject of "Business Administration", whereby the publications I presented were of course mainly in the fields of Behavioural and Experimental Finance. However, I do claim to understand the breadth of the subject at least in a certain depth and also to be able to teach it.
A very large part of my teaching is "research-led", i.e. the research questions and results of my projects flow into my teaching on an ongoing basis - this is particularly the case in the Master's programme, but certainly also in the undergraduate programme. The laboratory sessions that I conduct - again mainly in the Master's programme - are particularly close to research. For this, the students come to the computer lab, and there they receive instructions that we run, for example, a stock market on which they can choose one of several information levels (of course against higher costs for higher information levels). In this process, the students are in competition against each other, because everyone has the same initial assets and the same opportunities. It is very exciting to see which strategies the students choose and how they look forward to the result. Of course, we then also discuss the results. Especially for students who have never traded on a stock exchange before, these experiences are usually very valuable and instructive.
It is an enormous privilege, and one that you hardly have in any other profession, to choose what you work on, who you work with and how you approach a research question. Although I am a professor of finance, and mostly do research in this area, I have also done studies on brain research, or on "metascience". I value this freedom enormously.
The second great privilege is that you are constantly in an environment of creative, interested and eager-to-learn young people - the students and your own staff. While you yourself get a year older every year, every new academic year brings a new generation of students, for whom I try to awaken and nurture curiosity and enthusiasm for science and business with good lectures, provocative questions and an open door. It is a great honour and pleasure for me to be able to accompany hundreds of young people on their way every year.