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Current Grad Advice: Department with Best Game Theory Sequence

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My school has a program where we can take classes for a year at another one of the ivys+Stanford. I'm wondering out of this sample, which has the best training on game theory these days. I intuitively though Stanford since I come from an IR background, but yale's looks quite serious so I'm hoping to get the views of others. There are some other reasons why Stanford is attractive to me, but my school only has a very introductory game theory sequence and I would like to advance beyond the reading level to being able to model credibly. Any advice would be much appreciated.

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Does your list of schools include Berkeley? They seem to have developed a rather strong sequence of courses.

  • Formal Models in Political Science (PS 232A)
  • Formal Models in Political Science (PS 232B)
  • Research Workshop in Formal Modeling (PS 291F)
  • Political Behavior Models, Game Theory, and Statistical Methods (PS 269)
  • Political Economics (PS C234A/Econ 215A)

Plus, they do seem to have a number of substantive courses that draw from game theoretical approaches in political science.

Edited by gariddong
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  • 4 weeks later...

Stanford poli sci does not teach much game theory, and only has one or two game theorists on the faculty. It prefers to farm this teaching out to the GSB (business school), which specializes in this area. If you want to do IR-oriented game theory Berkeley (Powell) or UCSD (Slantchev) might make more sense. Princeton and Yale have also strengthened their offerings in recent years, although not so much in IR. If you hope to get enough background to write correct, publishable models, however, you'll probably need to take the core course sequence in an econ department or a boutique like Rochester.

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You certainly wouldn't be selling yourself short with the introductory formal sequences at any of the big-3 Ivy schools: John Roemer teaches the first course at Yale, James Robinson at Harvard, Adam Meirowitz at Princeton (or at least each of these have held true at some recent point in the past).

The bigger problem is that a year of grad courses in formal theory, even from the best folks in the business, only gets you to the "reading level," not to the "modeling credibly" level. It's tough to say what will move you past that point if you don't have the resources in your own department (ICPSR/EITM don't really go beyond the second course you'd have at one of the above places, either).

How's the Econ department at your school? One path might be:

1. Go to one of the above programs and do their intro formal sequence. Make good impressions on and connections with faculty there, maybe convince someone to serve as an external member of your committee if there aren't people who can supervise formal work in your home department (or at least to be a person you can send your work to for comments). Let your professors there know that you intend to continue to pursue formal theory and ask them to recommend resources for advanced study.

2. When you return to your school, take the Micro sequence in the Econ department (as well as any grad-level Political Economy seminars). Similarly impress these faculty and communicate to them your desire to do formal work.

3. Spend LOTS of time reading the formal work coming out in top journals (and going to watch formal panels at conferences, making sure if possible you've actually READ the papers being presented in advance), seeing how models are employed, critiquing modeling decisions and asking "how would I model this?" Know that in terms of practical applied modeling, you're going to have to do most of the work/learning on your own.

4. When you start trying to write formal papers, get lots of feedback on them, including from both groups of professors you have networked with above. Ask people to be brutally honest, not just about "is the model solved correctly," but about "do the modeling decisions capture the political process they model" and "are my interpretations and conclusions compelling?"

Actually, 3 and 4 above go for everyone trying to make it in political science, whether your doing formal work or not and regardless of the quality of your grad department. But regardless, I hope this helps.

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  • 2 weeks later...

To add clarification, I've taken a full year sequence (Game Theory 1 and 2) and am at the reading level so the year abroad would be to take courses at the level above this. Our econ department has a rather famous theorist, but I'm hoping to gain a networking advantage as well as credible skills.

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  • 1 month later...
  • 3 weeks later...

Rochester, Stanford GSB, Caltech, Princeton, maybe NYU. The existence of theorists on the faculty does not imply a solid theory curriculum. Indeed, one of the departments mentioned here has a theorist that (1) tends not to take on students, and (2) tends to spend his/her time outside of political science due to some hostility within the department. While it's smart to look at the faculty, also look at very recent students. Who's been turning out good theorists? Or, if you're just thinking about using theory to do IR, who's been turning out good applied users for IR? If that's the criterion, then Caltech or Stanford GSB might not be the best options, as their (formidable) strengths lie elsewhere.

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