Economy, Society, and Public Policy second release: Units 6 to 9 online, and R too

By Tim Phillips
Mon 18th June 2018 | Blog

Today we are releasing the next four units of Economy, Society, and Public Policy (ESPP) in their first beta version. That means nine of the 12 units are now available online. Students can now learn about The firm: Employees, managers, and owners (Unit 6) Firms and the market for goods and services (Unit 7), The labour market: Wages, profits and unemployment (Unit 8) and The credit market: Borrowers, lenders, and the rate of interest (Unit 9).

Also, we have updated and expanded Doing Economics, the companion volume that started out as a set of data exercises to complement ESPP and has now mushroomed into a standalone set of 12 data projects that some teachers are already incorporating into a wide variety of courses.

Diverse data

The data that the authors of Doing Economics have used shows how diverse and exciting open-access economic data has become. Students will examine management practices in Unit 6, prices in the US market for watermelons from 1930 to 1951 in Unit 7, use the European Values Study to analyse the non-monetary cost of unemployment in Unit 8, and model data from the Ethiopian Socioeconomic Survey to find out more about credit-excluded households in a developing country in Unit 9.

The project on climate change in Unit 1 of Doing Economics is now available in two versions: using Excel as before, and a new R version (right) for more ambitious students who can use the language already, or want to learn how to code using R by using a real-world application. “The benefit of having both Excel and R is that we can reach a wider, more diverse audience of different types of student. It means greater flexibility for teachers too,” says Stella Yarrow, the project manager for ESPP and Doing Economics. We will have R versions of all 12 projects in the full beta release.

We’re listening

We’ve been listening to your feedback from the release of the first five units. It has been overwhelmingly positive, but there are still more good suggestions for improvements than we can easily incorporate.

The most pleasing aspect has been that students find it not just useful, but fun to read. “There is a lightness and relevance to CORE’s approach which makes it feel refreshing and highly engaging. Looking at social issues motivated me to study economics and I feel this captures exactly what I had hoped to study at university,” says Emily Pal, who is studying for a BSc Economic and Social Policy at Birkbeck, University of London.

Applications outside academia

We have also been delighted to hear from non-academics that they are interested in using ESPP and Doing Economics to create courses in the workplace. Out target audience is students in other majors, but also includes anyone who wants practical training in how to understand and use data to measure the economy and the effectiveness of policy, and anyone who is hoping to have a policy-related job in the future. Who might these people be? One obvious area is the public sector, where cross-disciplinary teams use statistics and economists to evaluate policy options.

“The potential for ESPP to provide a way of introducing economics to Government analysts from other disciplines is something that we are looking very closely at,” says Fiona Dawe, head of Economic Statistics External Engagement and Capability at the Office for National Statistics, “The interactive style of ESPP makes the potential for using it as a tool to introduce economics to Government analysts very appealing.”

She adds that: “The ONS wants to enhance the effectiveness of multi-discipline analytical teams, and that can be enhanced by building the understanding and respect of the perspectives of the different disciplines. We are looking closely at how the ESPP interactive style can be used to provide a new and exciting opportunity to introduce economics to analysts from other professional backgrounds.”

Emma Gordon, head of the Government Economic & Social Research Unit at Her Majesty’s Treasury, points out that “[t]he new Civil Service Analysis Function Strategy states ‘The desire to seize the opportunities presented by analysis (and avoid pitfalls) means it is necessary for analytical skills to extend beyond traditional professional boundaries’. The new ESPP and Doing Economics ebooks are valuable resources that we plan to use to help up-skill non-economists to understand basic economic concepts and methods.”

Send us your feedback

But, of course, you don’t have to work in the civil service to up-skill using ESPP or Doing Economics. As always, our material is free and open-access online. So please read it, watch the videos, interact with the figures and quizzes, and let us know what you think of the units and projects. We will revise as we go along based on what you tell us, making small changes where we let errors slip through or where we think we can make non-disruptive urgent improvements. We also collect your suggestions for larger revisions at a later date.

Units 10 to 12 for both ESPP and Doing Economics are already in production, and will be released over the summer. We’ve enjoyed creating two entirely new types of ebook, and we hope you agree with Emily Pal that “ESPP makes economics seem very up-to-date and relevant.”