ISPS Director Alan Gerber Named Sterling Professor of Political Science
Alan Gerber, a pathbreaking scholar whose research has pioneered the application of experimental methods to political behavior, has been appointed Sterling Professor of Political Science effective July 1, in addition to previous appointments as director of The Institution for Social and Policy Studies (ISPS) and professor of economics and statistics and data science.
A Sterling Professorship is considered the highest academic honor a Yale professor can receive.
A faculty member at Yale since 1993, Gerber is a member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) in the Department of Political Science. He also has affiliations in the Yale School of Public Health, the Department of Economics, ISPS, and the Jackson School of Global Affairs.
Gerber’s research on electoral politics and political representation in the United States has transformed understandings of elections and voting, leading to new insights about how democracy can flourish. Through a series of studies of voter mobilization in the late 1990s, he pioneered the modern application of field experimental methods in political science. His book on field experiments, co-authored with Donald Green, has reoriented a generation of researchers and political consultants toward measuring and adapting to real-world empirical data. More broadly, the introduction of this novel approach to measuring causal effects in political campaigns led to heightened attention across political science to the challenges of measuring causal effects, resulting in research designs crafted to produce more credible causal estimates.
Gerber’s interest in experimention and evidence quality has led to influential work in a variety of areas. He co-wrote the award-winning book “Unhealthy Politics: The Battle over Evidence-Based Medicine” (Princeton University Press, 2017), which explored how doctors respond to evidence and how governmental practices have shaped health care policy. His co-edited volumes “Promoting the General Welfare” (Brookings Institution, 2006) and “Governing in a Polarized Age: Elections, Parties, and Political Representation in America” (Cambridge University Press, 2016) ask new questions about the conditions under which legislatures respond or fail to respond to opportunities to improve public policy, while “Get Out the Vote: How to Increase Voter Turnout” (Brookings Institution, 2004) set the standard for scholarship on the topic of voter turnout and is now in its third edition.
Gerber, a member of Yale College’s Class of 1986, has also authored and co-authored dozens of papers and articles on political campaigning, ballot secrecy, political psychology, and other topics. His current research focuses on the political economy of evidence production and use in organizations and governments. In addition, he has contributed to the fight against COVID-19, drawing on insights derived from political campaigns to understand the effectiveness of public health-related messaging during the pandemic. He has received major grants from the Hewlett Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the PEW Charitable Trusts.
Gerber was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, and the Society for Political Methodology, and was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences. His academic honors and awards include the Best Book Award from the American Political Science Association’s Organized Section on Experimental Research and the Heinz Eulau Award for the best article in the American Political Science Review.
Gerber is also an exceptional leader at Yale. He was appointed the FAS divisional director for the social sciences in 2013 and became the inaugural FAS dean of social science in 2014. During his time in these roles, he deftly steered scholarly priorities in the division. A champion of an inclusive vision for data-intensive social science, he fortified FAS’s strengths by facilitating cross-departmental partnerships, including the launch of a certificate in data science and courses that have opened the field to a broader segment of our undergraduates, and by playing a key role in reconceptualizing the Department of Statistics and Data Science. During his deanship, the number of majors in statistics and data science grew from single digits to more than 60 each year.
Gerber also worked to improve research infrastructure across methodological approaches, forming a working group to identify and address gaps in research support for qualitative and mixed-methods research. This working group was instrumental in supporting workshops and summer training in qualitative methods and securing university research tool licenses, including software for multi-media project management and interview transcription.
In the FAS more broadly, he led the implementation committee for the revised tenure and appointments policy. He also served as chair of the provost’s Committee on Data Intensive Social Science, identifying challenges and opportunities across the university in this vital area. Following the recommendation of this committee, the university established the Data-Intensive Social Science Center. This new center will identify researchers’ current and emerging computational, legal, and data-security needs, build community across the university, and support data-intensive work at the research frontier across the social sciences.
Gerber served as director of ISPS’s Center for the Study of American Politics before accepting an appointment as the ISPS director in 2020. At ISPS, he stewards research that aims to shape public policy, including the launch of COVID-19: ISPS and Yale Social Science, an online hub that connects faculty and facilitates collaborative research aiming to mitigate the disease’s impacts. He also launched Democratic Innovations, a program to further research and discussion of the critical social and political challenges facing democratic representation and policymaking. His teaching includes graduate and undergraduate courses on statistical analysis, the application of game theory to politics, American elections, and more.
He earned a Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in addition to a bachelor’s degree from Yale.
With Gerber’s appointment there are now 39 Sterling Professors representing numerous academic disciplines throughout Yale University. The professorships were originally endowed by attorney John William Sterling, Yale College Class of 1864, whose bequest when made to Yale in 1918 was the largest gift ever received by an American university.