Please use the links below to learn more about the Tobin Project.
The Tobin Project is named after Professor James Tobin, the 1981 Nobel Laureate in Economics and a mentor to the organization’s founder, David Moss. The Tobin Project was inspired by Professor Tobin’s belief in the power of ideas to shape society and public policy, and the vital role that academics can play in this regard. After Professor Tobin passed away in 2002, the founders of the organization received permission from Professor Tobin’s children to name the venture after their late father. The Tobin Project was founded in 2005 and remains animated today by the values and aspirations articulated by Professor Tobin.
Scholars do not work in-house at the Tobin Project as fellows or experts, but rather remain based at their home universities while participating in Tobin research projects. Scholars participate in Tobin Project programs in a variety of ways, including as research-initiative chairs, session moderators, conference and workshop participants, paper authors, and research commentators.
The Tobin Project is an independent, non-profit organization and is not affiliated with any university or college. The Tobin Project network comprises over 400 scholars from over 80 universities and institutions across the United States.
The Tobin Project is neither a think tank nor a traditional academic center. It is an organization with a unique model and mission that complements the work of these other actors in the ideas landscape.
The Tobin Project can be difficult to classify at first because, while Tobin is focused on academic research, its model brings policymakers together with scholars. Typically, when scholars work directly with policymakers it is at think tanks, where academics help to generate policy proposals and answers to immediate policy problems. In contrast, Tobin involves policymakers chiefly to ground scholars’ academic research in real-world experience. The primary goal is not to generate short-term policy proposals (though this is often a welcome byproduct of Tobin Project efforts), but rather to influence and guide academic research in ways that will help ensure more effective responses to the nation’s challenges over the long term.
A medical analogy can be helpful. In the field of medicine, solutions to problems are offered both by clinicians, who combat disease with the tools available today, and by medical researchers, who expand this set of tools through rigorous, cutting-edge research, improving our ability to combat disease in the future. In many ways, think tanks are the clinicians of the policy world, offering needed solutions to current problems with the research available today. This role is vital, as think tanks maintain the expertise and infrastructure necessary to respond to the fast-paced, high-stakes decisionmaking environment in government. At the same time, an organization like the Tobin Project is essential – like the medical researcher – to generate new knowledge that over time promises to yield improved solutions and, in some cases, quantum leaps in our ability to address the policy challenges of the future.
The Tobin Project also differs from a traditional academic center, as it places a particular emphasis on involving policymakers and also maintains a unique networked structure. The Tobin model allows for research initiatives to involve experts based at numerous universities across the country and does not incur the costs of maintaining a brick-and-mortar research institution. With no institutional affiliation, the Tobin Project maintains a small, nimble team able to venture down new paths, change course when needed, and facilitate outstanding research at relatively low cost. Tobin works with several institutional research centers, sharing the goal of promoting interdisciplinary research on issues of public import, but remains unique in its model and structure.
The Tobin Project does not aim to further a political or ideological agenda through its research initiatives. Rather, the Tobin Project seeks to facilitate collaborative, interdisciplinary research on a range of questions relating to the U.S. democracy, economy, and national security. While the Tobin Project encourages scholars to draw on their values in shaping their questions, it insists that rigorous academic research must determine their answers.
The Tobin Project does not take positions on policy issues. Where research produced through Tobin Project initiatives yields policy recommendations, the Tobin Project disseminates those conclusions throughout its academic and policy networks and facilitates conversations between scholars and policymakers in positions to effect change.
The Tobin Project is primarily focused on long-term research initiatives; lobbying lawmakers on particular pieces of legislation is not an objective of the Project’s work. The Tobin Project does not employ any registered lobbyists under the Lobbying Disclosure Act. As a registered 501(c)(3), the Tobin Project has made a Section (h) election pursuant to Section 4911 of the IRC and thus maintains records regarding any expenditures on activities that could constitute lobbying for the purposes of the tax code.
The Tobin Project is supported by a committed group of individual donors, along with several foundations including the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The Tobin Project does not receive any government funding nor does it have an endowment.
The Tobin Project network grows as new scholars with particular expertise on current research inquiries join research initiatives, attend conferences, and sign on to book projects. For more information about Tobin Project research initiatives, and how to get involved, please contact Robert Ward.
If you would be interested in joining the committed group of individuals and foundations who support the Tobin Project, please contact Jonathan Decker.
The Tobin Project is always pleased to discuss opportunities with interested applicants. Find more information in the "Opportunities" section of the website.
The best way to keep up-to-date with the Tobin Project is to visit the “News” section of our website.
The Tobin Project includes graduate students in many of its events and activities and also organizes a Graduate Student Forum and Fellowship program. For more information on this program, please see the "Graduate Students" section of the website.
The Tobin Project does not offer research programming for undergraduate students, but encourages current or graduating students to consider part-time or full-time job opportunities or summer internships with the Tobin Project. Check the "Opportunities" page for current listings.
Please visit our "Books & Papers" page for information regarding Tobin Project publications. To access existing publications:
Preventing Regulatory Capture: Special Interest Influence and How to Limit It (Daniel Carpenter & David Moss, eds.) (Cambridge University Press, 2013) is available for purchase here. The introduction, conclusion, and afterword, as well as James Kwak's chapter on "cultural capture," are available for download here.
Race, Reform, and Regulation of the Electoral Process: Recurring Puzzles in American Democracy (Guy-Uriel E. Charles, Heather K. Gerken & Michael S. Kang, eds.) (Cambridge University Press, 2011) is available for purchase here.
Government & Markets: Toward a New Theory of Regulation (David Moss & Edward Balleisen, eds.) (Cambridge University Press, 2010) is available for purchase here.
The Prudent Use of Power in American National Security Strategy (Stephen Van Evera and Sidharth Shah, eds.) (The Tobin Project, 2010) is available for free download here.
How to Make America Safe: New Policies for National Security (Stephen Van Evera, ed.) (The Tobin Project, 2006) is available for free download here.
Because the Tobin Project seeks to explore new paths for scholarship, much of the work presented at conferences and meetings is early-stage and not intended for immediate distribution. When scholars deem their pieces ready for circulation, the Tobin Project posts them here, as working papers or published articles.
In some cases, papers presented at Tobin Project conferences are developed into chapters for Tobin book projects. Many of these volumes, as well as their individual chapters, are available for free download here. Publication restrictions do not allow the Tobin Project to offer free download of all these books at all times. You can purchase the volumes online or contact the Tobin Project for more information.
The Tobin Project seeks to motivate and support new research outside of more traditional mechanisms such as research grants and fellowships. Scholars often work on Tobin Project research inquiries because the organization offers a community and a framework in which they can pursue innovative, interdisciplinary, publicly minded research. However, the Tobin Project does offer targeted support to scholars pursuing research for Tobin Project conferences, research seminars, and publication projects, as well as to students participating in the Graduate Student Forums.
Scholars involved with the Tobin Project are based at their home universities and can be reached through their university contact websites. If you have a press inquiry or would like more information about the research inquiries scholars are involved with at the Tobin Project, please contact Jonathan Decker.
For more information about the Tobin Project, please contact Jonathan Decker.
For press inquiries, please contact Jonathan Decker.
The Tobin Project maintains an office suite in Harvard Square at One Mifflin Place, Suite 240, Cambridge, MA, 02138. The network of scholars and policymakers with whom the Tobin Project works remain at their universities and institutions around the country.