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Week 15

Department News

How the 1918 influenza pandemic exacerbated racial inequalities in South Africa

New CAGE commentary by Jonathan Jayes and Johan Fourie looked at how the 1918 influenza pandemic exacerbated racial inequalities in South Africa and that poor access to healthcare could explain why. Read the full news article here.

Changes to the access to the Social Sciences Building

Many buildings, including the Social Sciences Building, are now ‘non-operational’, with the heating reduced a minimum and card access withdrawn. During this period, Colin Ellis will not be available to assist students and staff, but Peter Kane and the other members of the IT Team will still be remotely available for IT support. Please do not use the departmental campus visit booking webpage to plan a visit to the Social Sciences Building, but instead please wait for the University process to be put in place and the details to be circulated.

The Oculus Building is being kept open and operational for those who will need to be on campus for business-critical reasons, and a booking system for this is also to be put in place shortly. These arrangements started on Wednesday 13th January 2021 and are expected to remain in place until the end of February 2021 at the earliest.

Informal Teaching Seminar 'What Worked in the Move to Predominantly Online Teaching'

Online Event via Teams, Tuesday 26th January 12 - 1pm

Speakers will be:

  • Andrew Harkins and Daniel Sgroi EC132 The Industrial Economy
  • Costas Cavounidis EC220 Mathematical Economics 1A
  • Atisha Ghosh EC320 Atisha Ghosh Economics of Public Policy
  • Pedro Souza EC338 Microeconometrics

Last term was the first time for many of us that we needed to do a substantial amount of online teaching. Nevertheless, there were some fantastic module evaluation results. As we start to teach online again it is hopefully timely to hold an informal lunchtime seminar to hear colleagues' advice on the strategies and technologies that worked well for them. Everybody is welcome to attend and there will be opportunities to ask questions.

Home Schooling

For those of you who will be home-schooling your children over the next few months, the Department's on-line resources page is being updated with educational resources, hints and tips to assist your children to learn remotely. Should you have any ideas that you wish to share, or have discovered resources that you feel may be of benefit to other parents’, please email them to the Departmental HR Officer Lisa Hayes: L dot Hayes at warwick dot ac dot uk

Warwick Institute of Engagement

Senior Teaching Fellow Nicholas Jackson has been awarded Fellowship of the Warwick Institute of Engagement – Congratulations to Nicholas!

Annual Leave

In addition to the extra two days annual leave given to all staff at Christmas, the University have announced that staff will receive an additional four days annual leave to cover the Easter break. SuccessFactors will be updated to include the new allocation.

Economics Department Staff Book Club

A small but keen-on-reading group of staff formed the Economics Department Staff Book Club in the summer of last year. We pick a short(ish) book to read by taking it in turns for a member to nominate a small selection that everyone in the group then votes on to reach the final choice. Listed below are the first six books we have read, and we give ourselves a month to buy and read before we get together on a mutually convenient lunchtime to chat about the latest book over tea/coffee.

  • The Salt Path by Raynor Winn
  • The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
  • The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian
  • Hunting Unicorns by Bella Pollen
  • A Strangeness In My Mind by Orhan Pamuk
  • Mythos by Stephen Fry

We are a friendly group open to new members, and it is a great way to broaden your reading and discover new authors. If you would like to join, please email Robert Horton (R dot S dot Horton at warwick dot ac dot uk) and you will be added to the club’s MS Team and invited to the next meeting.

Departmental HR Update

Health and Wellbeing

In light of Government advice, remote working has been extended. This decreases the opportunities to connect with colleagues and can be isolating as we preserve the need for social distancing. Being mindful of your health and wellbeing is paramount during this time. Please raise any concerns that you may have relating to this area with your Line Manager or the HR Officer.

Online Resources

Library Update from Helen Riley, Economics Librarian - Data Matters online conference

Jisc, HESA and QAA are hosting Data Matters at the end of this month, with sessions which you might find relevant. Read the full programme here. Data Matters 2021's theme is 'enabling data certainty'. The event is not only aimed at data professionals, but also higher education practitioners and professional services staff working in areas such as strategic planning, academia, student experience, careers and quality.

  • Rachel Hewitt, Director of policy and advocacy at the Higher Education Policy Institute. Rachel will be discussing the latest policy developments in higher education, including the impact of Brexit and Covid-19. Richard will be talking about how to use data to co-design digital products and services that work.
  • Richard Prowse, Deputy Director service design at the University of Bath. Richard will be talking about how to use data to co-design digital products and services that work.
  • Dr Bart Rienties, Professor of learning analytics at The Open University. Dr Bart Rienties will be speaking about the impact of large-scale adoption across The Open University, an early adopter of learning analytics.
  • Charles Baird, Data architect at the Government Digital Service. Charles will be discussing how the UK government are using data standards to improve services and what this could mean for the HE sector.

Tickets can be booked here. Data Matters is jointly run by Jisc, HESA and QAA, who are the UK’s higher education data, quality and digital experts. This partnership brings these three perspectives together in a two-day conference to discuss the topical issues around data and its use in shaping the future of education. In the meantime, please do forward this email to colleagues you think may like to attend.

IT Support - New Online Systems

Andrew Taylor has created a dedicated webpage on the staff intranet named ‘Working Remotely’, where he has documented the various tools we are using to collaborate with one another, i.e. Microsoft Teams and how to access your email and the H and M drives.

NOTE – this webpage is constantly being updated with new information so please revisit it if you have any questions.

Publications, Presentations & Workshops

Sascha O. Becker was appointed Associate Editor at the Quarterly Journal of Economics (QJE).

Mingli Chen’s paper (with Kengo Kato and Chenlei Leng) ‘Analysis of Networks via the Sparse β-Model’ has been accepted by Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series B


Data in the form of networks are increasingly available in a variety of areas, yet statistical models allowing for parameter estimates with desirable statistical properties for sparse networks remain scarce. To address this, we propose the Sparse β-Model (SβM), a new network model that interpolates the celebrated Erdős-Rényi model and the β-model that assigns one different parameter to each node. By a novel reparameterization of the β-model to distinguish global and local parameters, our SβM can drastically reduce the dimensionality of the β-model by requiring some of the local parameters to be zero. We derive the asymptotic distribution of the maximum likelihood estimator of the SβM when the support of the parameter vector is known. When the support is unknown, we formulate a penalized likelihood approach with the ℓ0-penalty. Remarkably, we show via a monotonicity lemma that the seemingly combinatorial computational problem due to the ℓ0-penalty can be overcome by assigning nonzero parameters to those nodes with the largest degrees. We further show that a β-min condition guarantees our method to identify the true model and provide excess risk bounds for the estimated parameters. The estimation procedure enjoys good finite sample properties as shown by simulation studies. The usefulness of the SβM is further illustrated via the analysis of a microfinance take-up example.

Arun Advani has the following updates:

  • Discussed green taxes with "Sunday Briefing" (their write ups go to policymakers but aren't public) on 05/01/21
  • Presented "Importing Inequality" to civil servants at No 10 (within "Office for Talent" unit) on 07/01/21
  • Presented work on race/ethnicity at invited panel session at BITSS annual conference on 07/01/21

Working Papers

Marcus Miller's working paper 'Choosing the narrative : The shadow banking crisis in the light of Covid' has been released as part of the Warwick Economics Research working paper series.

Qianxue Zhang's working paper 'Supply shocks in China hit the world economy via global supply chains ' has been released as part of the Warwick Economics Research working paper series.

Media Coverage

'Richest 1% have almost a quarter of UK wealth, study claims' - Arun Advani's research mentioned - The Guardian - 3 January 2021.

'The Wealth Tax Is Going Global' - Arun Advani's research with co-author on Wealth Tax Commission mentioned - Bloombery - 3 January 2021.

'How Covid-19 has impacted the economy' - Arun Advani interviewed - BBC 5 Live: Wake Up to Money- 15 January 2021.

'Self-fulfilling prophecies, quasi-non-ergodicity and wealth inequality' - Roger Farmer co-authored - VoxEU - 13 January 2021.

'High street under siege as COVID-19 hastens shift online' - Mike Waterson quoted - China Daily - 12 January 2021.

Dates For Your Diary