MIT SCHOOL OF HUMANITIES, ARTS, AND SOCIAL SCIENCES
Media + Awards Digest | January 2020
Office of the Dean | January 21
Happy New Year from MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences! The new decade brings unprecedented times — in which facts, discernment, empathy, and rational discourse are needed more than ever. In this climate, the work of academic institutions is vital to thoughtful examination of today’s issues, as evidenced by recent media coverage of MIT's humanistic research.
A few highlights: Our political science, international studies, and security studies faculty continue to add great value to policy debates and public understanding of the impeachment hearings and instability in the Middle East. Amy Finkelstein of our Economics department and J-PAL North America was co-author of a widely covered study on cutting healthcare spending.
Speaking with WBUR on the tenth anniversary of a devastating earthquake in Haiti, Michel DeGraff, Professor of Linguistics, discussed the sustained efforts of his home country to build a nation that’s politically and socio-economically strong, and the powerful role of language in that ambition. Finally, Ellen Harris, Professor Emeritus of Music and author of the acclaimed George Frideric Handel: A Life with Friends, shares highlights of her research into the composer’s financial life.
Thank you for reading. I hope 2020 brings you creativity, discovery, peaceful hours, and well-being.
Kenan Sahin Dean
MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
HONORS AND AWARDS
Sandy Alexandre, Associate Professor of Literature, photo by Jon Sachs, MIT SHASS Communications
Sandy Alexandre receives Bose Research Grant
Many tech inventions have been inspired by imaginative literature. Associate Professor of Literature Alexandre will collaborate with MIT students to create a database of such literary sources, assess the imagined innovations, then build a prototype of one of the imaginary inventions.
Story at MIT News | Sandy Alexandre
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND SOCIETY
National Book Critics Circle Award finalist for Nonfiction | Kate Brown
Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future is one of five books selected for the prestigious NBCC award in the non-fiction category.
More information at NBCC | About the book | Kate Brown
CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDIES
Special Duty named a "Best of Books" by Foreign Affairs | Richard Samuels
Special Duty, by Samuels, an engrossing history of Japanese intelligence, was selected by Foreign Affairs in their "Best of Books 2019."
More | Richard Samuels
Michael Stepner PhD '19 awarded the 2020 Heinz Dissertation Award
The National Academy of Social Insurance announces Stepner (nominated by Prof Amy Finkelstein) has won the award for his MIT doctoral dissertation in Economics, “Essays on Health and Social Insurance.”
Sarah Moss PhD '09 wins 2019 Marc Sanders Prize in Epistemology
The prize is awarded for the best submitted essay of original research in epistemology by either a scholar who is within fifteen years of receiving a PhD or a current graduate student.
About | The Prize
Professor Kate Brown of MIT Program in Science, Technology, and Society; photo by Allegra Boverman
TECH NATION PODCAST
Chernobyl, then and now | Kate Brown
MIT historian Brown, author of Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future, looks at the long term impact of Chernobyl—on humans, the environment, the politics of governments with nuclear capabilities, and on international humanitarian organizations.
Listen to the Podcast
Marking 10 years since a earthquake devastated Haiti | Michel DeGraff
DeGraff, an MIT Professor of Linguistics and a native of Haiti, says one of the biggest needs is for nation building across class and language divisions.
Conversation at WBUR | Michel DeGraff
'Death to the dictator': What is Iran's future? | Pouya Alimagham
Alimagham, a historian of the Middle East and professor at MIT, observes that what started as anger at the defeat of Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi galvanized protesters into usurping whatever religious symbolism the Islamic Republic had co-opted.
Commentary at the LA Times
FAIRBANK CENTER AT HARVARD
“1/11: I’m going home!” | Emma Teng
Amid events such as Brexit and protests in Hong Kong, it's a bright spot in the world that Taiwan quietly carried out a democratic election—with nearly 75% turn-out!—and many voters traveling home to their polling stations from faraway places.
Commentary at Medium | Emma Teng
TIME TO EAT THE DOGS
The scientific search for life beyond Earth | Claire Isabel Webb
In this podcast, PhD student Webb discusses the strategies astronomers and exobiologists use to search for extraterrestrial life and intellgicence. Webb's dissertation project won the 2019 HSS/NASA Fellowship in Aerospace History!
Podcast | MIT HASTS program
Collage: Kepler telescope (NASA) with MIT PhD student Claire Isabel Webb
Those in extreme poverty are most vulnerable to climate change. Getty Images via Forbes.
Shaping the future | Abhihit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, Iqbal Dhaliwal
“There are a few key themes that will define our research in the future and climate change is right there among the top.” While J-PAL’s focus is on global poverty, climate change is squarely on its radar because the world’s poorest are most vulnerable to, and will be disproportionately affected by, rising temperatures, warming oceans, rising sea levels, and an increasing number of extreme weather events."
Commentary at Forbes
STAT | THE BOSTON GLOBE
Did a high-profile program really slash hospital spending? | Amy Finkelstein
Amy Finkelstein writes, "J-PAL North America is part of a growing movement of health systems, payers, providers, and more that are using randomized controlled trials to test and learn, whether through evaluations of whole programs or quick process improvements."
Commentary at The Boston Globe | Amy Finkelstein
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Better ways to cut health care spending | Amy Finkelstein
“The Camden model targets a population that has a much more varied set of medical needs and social complexity, and with higher health care spending, than the existing successful models."
Story at The New York Times
NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO
Reduce health costs by nurturing the sickest? | Amy Finkelstein
In 2014, MIT economist Amy Finkelstein began a randomized controlled trial, the same rigorous method used to evaluate new drugs. Over four years, the Coalition enrolled 800 patients; all had been recently hospitalized and all struggled with social problems.
Story at NPR
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
The 'Robot Tax' debate heats up | Daron Acemoglu
There's a real risk that the next wave of automation and artificial intelligence will displace workers and not create enough jobs, says Acemoglu, an economist in MIT-SHASS, who co-wrote a recent study that found technology already contributing to slower employment growth....You really need to intervene in a way that encourages job creation,” he says.
Article at The Wall Street Journal | Daron Acemoglu
Illustration via The Wall Street Journal
13,000 economists, 1 question | David Autor
“People are always worried about running out of work, but we're not,” says MIT economist Autor of the “lump of labor fallacy,” the notion that there is a finite amount of work to do. “We ought to be focusing our energy on figuring out, gee, how do we improve people's skills so they can qualify for better jobs?”
Podcast at NPR | David Autor
The war on terror has cost America trillions | Jonathan Gruber
One problem, Gruber said, is that politicians frequently call for military engagement without properly considering the economic costs.
Commentary at WGBH | Jonathan Gruber
THE BOSTON GLOBE
Housing costs are a problem, but rent control isn't the answer | Jonathan Gruber
"Economics research shows that rent control will benefit some renters already in place, but will lead to a reduced supply of housing that will ultimately make housing less available for Bostonians — and less fairly distributed."
Opinion at The Boston Globe
Statue of George Frideric Handel; Photo via Bank Underground
Handel and the Bank of England | Ellen T. Harris
"George Frideric Handel was a master musician — an internationally renowned composer, virtuoso performer, and music director of London’s Royal Academy of Music, one of Europe’s most prestigious opera houses...Handel’s financial records provide a unique window on his career, musical environments, income, and even his health."
Commentary at Bank Underground
CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDIES + SECURITY STUDIES
Via The New York Times: Posing with a poster of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani. Credit: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/Agence France-Presse, Getty Images
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Did the killing of Suleimani deter or encourage Iranian attacks? | Vipin Narang
“The best-case argument for deterrence is, you kill Suleimani and whoever replaces him is more moderate because they're afraid of the same fate. And that's possible,” said Dr. Narang, a political scientist in MIT-SHASS.
Commentary at The New York Times
Impeachment and Iran | Adam Berinsky
MIT political scientist Berinsky discusses whether bombing Iran will boost or lower Trump’s favorability.
Discussion at Vox | Adam Berinsky
What's the path forward on Iran? | Joel Brenner
A senior research fellow at MIT, Joel Brenner—former inspector general of the National Security Agency and head of US counterintelligence—was interviewed about Iran and what happens next.
Listen at WBUR
NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO
Fallout from the Khashoggi case in Saudi Arabia | Hala Aldosari
Ari Shapiro speaks with Aldosari, Saudi human rights activist and fellow at the MIT Center for International Studies.
Listen or read transcript at NPR
WBUR / NPR AFFILIATE IN BOSTON
National security challenges facing the US | Jim Walsh
Robin Young speaks with security analyst Dr. Jim Walsh with the MIT-SHASS Security Studies Program.
Listen at WBUR | Jim Walsh
WBUR / NPR AFFILIATE IN BOSTON
The death of Soleimani and repercussions | Jim Walsh
MIT security expert Walsh discusses the U.S. killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and repercussions.
Commentary at WBUR
Oil prices surge after U.S. attack kills Iran military chief | John Tirman
"Certainly Iran is going to retaliate in some way; retaliations will come, as they have in the past, in what we call an asymmetrical way," said Tirman, executive director of the MIT Center for International Studies.
Story at Al Jazeera | John Tirman
Iran uranium enrichment | Jim Walsh
MIT Research Associate Dr. Jim Walsh discusses the recent announcement that Iran will continue its uranium enrichment program with no limitations.
Watch the broadcast
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Published 21 January 2020