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The purpose of special fields of interest is to establish a solid foundation for future research. Students should seek PhD-level courses that broaden and deepen their knowledge in the special field. Most Harvard Kennedy School courses and seminars are targeted toward practitioners rather than scholars and do not normally serve as PhD-level courses. As a consequence, at least part of the special field work will normally be done in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences or other graduate units outside the Kennedy School.
A plan of study that includes the syllabus for each proposed course in the special field must be submitted to the Program Office for approval at the beginning of each year.
Many tracks in a variety of fields are approved.
Issues related to the condition of the natural environment and the availability and quality of resources and services derived from it have long been important determinants of the human condition in industrialized and developing countries alike. These issues include the availability of land, water, energy, and non-fuel minerals to meet basic human needs and to sustain economic growth; the control of pollution of the atmosphere, soils, fresh water, and the oceans; the management of lightly exploited and intensely exploited ecosystems in ways that meet the immediate needs of society for food and fiber while preserving crucial resources of biodiversity for benefits in the long term as well as the short; and the avoidance of excessive disruption of climatic conditions and processes upon which the intertwined functioning of societal and environmental systems depends.
Policy problems arise at every geographic level from the local to the global; they cut across public and private interests and responsibilities; they link current actions to consequences extending in many cases into the distant future; and they are presented for discussion and resolution and policy action at all levels of government from village councils to the United Nations. Such issues frequently can best be understood through approaches that address and integrate diverse disciplinary dimensions: environmental and resource science; engineering analysis of the technologies of resource exploitation and environmental remediation; environmental and resource economics; and the political, legal, and social dimensions of the management of resources and the environment.
The challenges facing the developing world have never been greater. While a number of developing societies have made significant economic advances in the last few decades, large parts of the world remain mired in poverty. Even in the middle income countries of Latin America or East Asia, economic insecurity and reform fatigue impede further progress. The globalization of the world economy has created new opportunities for poor countries by providing them with access to international trade and investment. At the same time, it has generated new risks of financial instability and has constrained their ability to follow national developmental goals. Despite accumulating evidence on what has worked and not worked in the past, ideas about what constitutes desirable policies for development remain in flux.
How can poor countries achieve sustainable, equitable economic growth in a setting of social and political stability? That is the central question on which the field of International Development focuses. The field is inherently multidisciplinary. Research competence in International Development requires strong training in economics and quantitative methods -- at the level of the training provided by leading PhD programs in economics -- as well as in public management and legal and political analysis. It requires immersion in comparative economic history to distill the lessons of successful and unsuccessful development experiences. Depending on the student's research focus, it may also require sustained exposure to allied fields such as public health, demography, and ecology.
The interdisciplinary field of Judgment and Decision Making seeks to understand and improve the judgment and decision making of individuals, groups, and organizations. The field is grounded in theories and methods mainly drawn from psychology and economics, but also builds on insights from organizational behavior, philosophy, statistics, and management science. A typical course incorporates three aspects of decision making:
A PhD-level course will also include a discussion of research methods, such as, for example, the design and analysis of surveys as well as economic, psychological and neuroscientific experiments. Harvard Kennedy School has significant resources and great energy to draw on in offering this special field. The school is an important hub at Harvard of multi-disciplinary (economics, psychology and organizational behavior) research, teaching, and outreach in the area of Judgment and Decision Making. It has a proud history to draw on, with Thomas Schelling and Howard Raiffa as the pioneers.