Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) is to launch today a book by associate professor Karl Widerquist which explores ongoing research into the concept of a universal basic income (UBI).
A Critical Analysis of Basic Income Experiments for Researchers, Policymakers, and Citizens will be launched at 5.30pm at the university’s bookstore at
Education City campus.
UBI is a guaranteed fixed income provided by the government for every citizen. The idea is gaining support as an economic policy for the future, and while ongoing field tests and experiments have explored the idea, the effectiveness of those experiments remains in
question.
 “There is a common but naive belief that UBI experiments are capable of determining whether UBI makes sense. Social science experiments can produce useful information, but they cannot answer the big questions that most interest policymakers and voters, such as does UBI work, or should we introduce it,” writes Dr Widerquist, an internationally recognised expert not only on basic income in general, which he has written about as an economist, philosopher, political theorist, and policy analyst, but also on basic income
experiments in particular.
“Researchers often do not understand what citizens and policymakers expect from research, while citizens and policymakers often do not understand the inherent difficulties of policy research or the difference between what research shows and what they want to know.”
 According to the associate professor, “Very few of the things we want to know about UBI are testable in an experiment. Of the things we can test, we can only test them incompletely or indirectly, and the results are highly vulnerable to spin and misunderstanding. This doesn’t mean that we should give up on experiments, he explains, but that researchers have to take great care to do them well and communicate the results in ways that citizens, journalists, and policymakers can understand.”
Widerquist’s careful treatment of the subject sheds light on how to conduct and report on UBI experiments to avoid these potential pitfalls and maximise the possibility that an experiment will successfully improve public understanding of what is likely to happen if a national UBI policy is instituted.
He has published both academic and non-academic articles on Basic Income experiments over the last 15 years and is currently the editor of the book series Exploring the Basic Income Guarantee (Palgrave Macmillan).
Those who wish to attend the book launch event can register on https://www.qatar.georgetown.edu/IncomeExperiments