Research Meso-Tasks

As an experiment, I’d like to try working with people who can solve technical issues that arise in my research and policy work. At the moment, the types of expertise that would be most useful are:

– Programming with Mathematica
– Typesetting with Tex
– IT, including Linux server administration

I’d like to organize work around specific tasks. As they arise, I will send out an email to a list and include a desired turn-around time. In some time-sensitive cases, this might be as short as a day or two. For others, it could be several months. If someone gets in touch to say he or she is interested and seems qualified, this merely gets the person on the list. If he or she turns out to be busy or does not see anything interesting, there is no obligation. But if someone has free time and sees a task that looks interesting, they can put in a claim, and if I agree, start work.

I’ll make an estimate of the time required to complete a task and will offer a graduate student RA rate of $25 per hour. Some of the estimates will probably turn out to be on the low side, and if so, we’ll renegotiate task extensions. The minimum unit for a task will be one hour of effort, so I’m calling these meso-tasks to distinguish them from much smaller micro-tasks, which has come to mean tasks that pay pennies.

To be eligible, a participant must have a dot edu email address and a PayPal account that I can use to send payments. To sign up for the group I’ll use to manage the email list, someone will also need an account with Google (but of course can continue to use any existing email account.)

In general, doing this kind of work will be a better fit for someone in a graduate program in economics or with experience doing research in economics. Someone with this background will be more likely to understand the context for a task and more likely to learn something useful along the way. For example, I assume that the only reason that someone who has the skills to contribute on IT tasks would agree to work for RA wages is because there is a chance to learn something in parallel that is related somehow to economics.

The background in all of these areas is not conceptually difficult. All it takes to get up to speed is a willingness to invest some time, so extensive experience is not a prerequisite. Two personality traits that are predictors of success are patience and attention to detail. Evidence in support of these traits (e.g. mastery of some other aspect of IT, programming, or mathematics) will be a plus.

If you would like to be on the list, or if you know economists who might be interested, the way to get in touch is by following me on Twitter, @paulmromer, and sending me a tweet that includes “meso.” I’ll respond by following back and then replying with a direct message.