Call for Articles: “Nudge Turns 10” – A Special Issue on Behavioral Science in Public Policy

The idea for our next special issue originates in the “deviant” thoughts of an economics graduate student. As this self-described lazy, unimpressive student worked on his thesis in the early 1970s, he began to discover the myriad ways that human behavior was inconsistent with economic theory. Broadcasting these ideas, he knew, could amount to academic treason. And yet, he couldn’t shake the idea that the disconnection between theory and behavior was critical.

In the middle of this intellectual turmoil, he found an academic paper that caused his heart to beat “the way it might during the final minutes of a close game. The paper took me 30 minutes to read from start to finish, but my life had changed forever.”

And soon, our lives would change, too. The student, of course, was Richard Thaler, Nobel prize winner and Behavioral Scientist Advisory Board member, and after he read “Judgment Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases,” by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, he began to generate the ideas and theories that eventually started an international movement to integrate behavioral science into government policy and practice.

It’s been 10 years since Thaler and Sunstein published Nudge—the right time, we think, for a look back at how far we’ve come and where we could go.

In 2008, Thaler, along with Cass Sunstein, published the book Nudge, detailing how policymakers could redesign policies to “nudge” citizens toward better behavior and choices. In 2010, the U.K. government launched the Behavioral Insights Team, affectionately termed the “Nudge Unit.” Embedded within the U.K. government, their task was to help design more effective policy by understanding how people actually behave. Soon after that, nudge units spread to the United States, Australia, Canada, and many other countries, as well as states and cities. These units have influenced everything from tax policy to retirement savings, from energy consumption to environmental responsibility.  

It’s been 10 years since Thaler and Sunstein published Nudge—the right time, we think, for a look back at how far we’ve come and where we could go. This September, we’re excited to feature your articles about the past, present, and future of the marriage between behavioral science and public policy.

Perhaps you’re a behavioral scientist who has worked with a government office and wants to share a story about that experience. Maybe you’re a journalist who has been covering a local behavioral-science intervention for your local paper. We welcome stories of both successes and failures—of strange or exciting discoveries at the national, state, and local levels. We are also looking for reflections on the past and ideas for the future. What excites or concerns you? We especially encourage you to pitch us ideas for multimedia stories using audio, video, cartoons, photos, holograms, time-travel, or anything else you can dream up.

This September, we’re excited to feature your articles about the past, present, and future of the marriage between behavioral science and public policy.

If you’d like to pitch us, first decide which content type (list below) aligns best with your idea. Then, shoot us an email at editor@behavioralscientist.org that explains the central argument or angle of the story, what form you think it should take, and how it fits into this editorial package.

Please send us your pitch by May 28. Pitches should be one to three paragraphs. We’ll review and respond to pitches on a rolling basis, but will notify all applicants by the first week of June. If your pitch is selected, the first draft will be due in early July.


Expert Commentary:  Original articles by people working in behavioral science and policy that can take on the following forms: opinion, research explanation/translation, or essay. (800–1800 words)

Reports: Original articles by journalists covering the intersection of public policy and behavioral science. (800–2000 words)

Excerpts/Adaptations: Did you recently publish a book on this subject? Let us know if you think an excerpt or adaptation from the book fits the bill. (800–2000 words)

Conversations: Interviews with leading behavioral scientists and practitioners in behavioral science and public policy. (800–1200 words)

Debates: Two behavioral scientists share their divergent perspectives on a particular issue in behavioral science and public policy. (800–1200 words)

Rediscoveries: These pieces will act as a portal into the history of behavioral science and public policy. Here, you can review important research, essays, media, and debates from the past. Who are the unsung heroes of the movement that people haven’t heard about—or the policy interventions that haven’t received much attention? (500–1000 words)

Ask a Behavioral Scientist: Got a question about the impact and implications of libertarian paternalism or how to design policies with people in mind? This is your chance to ask expert academics and practitioners a question. We curate the questions and then identify the appropriate expert to answer it. (250–500 words)