Tobin Project

The Tobin Project is an independent, non-profit research organization motivated by the belief that rigorous scholarship on major, real-world problems can make a profound difference, improving society and strengthening the country. Inspired by Professor James Tobin's belief that scholars have a vital role to play in the public sphere, the Tobin Project aims to mobilize, motivate, and support a community of scholars across the social sciences and allied fields seeking to deepen our understanding of significant challenges facing the nation over the long term, and to engage policymakers at every step in the research process. Founded in 2005, the Tobin Project has built an interdisciplinary network of over 800 leading scholars across 80 universities, from Nobel Laureates to the most promising graduate students, who are together working to generate pioneering research on pressing problems of the 21st century.


Areas of Inquiry

  • Government & Markets: What are the conditions that distinguish success from failure in the governance and regulation of the economy?
  • Institutions of Democracy: What factors and institutions - of government, business, civil society, and beyond - are most central to the functioning of American democracy? 
  • Economic Inequality: What are the consequences of the dramatic and continuing rise of income inequality in the U.S. – for the economy, society, and democracy?
  • National Security:  How can the U.S. sustainably advance its national security interests given fiscal constraints and shifts in the global distribution of power?

The Director's Internship will be especially stimulating and suitable for students considering future careers in academia or in the public policy arena.  While the exact nature of the work can be tailored to the background, skills, and interests of the intern, the internship will likely focus on one to two significant and rigorous academic research projects on topics within the Tobin Project's areas of inquiry.  Ideal candidates will be juniors or seniors with strong writing and research skills and a background in economics, political science, and/or history.  Qualifications include:

  • Superior research and analytical skills;
  • Excellent writing and oral communication skills;
  • Familiarity with ideas and frameworks in the social sciences;
  • The ability to work independently and as a member of a team; and
  • Exceptional attention to detail.

2019 Intern Reflection:

This summer, I’ve had a productive and fulfilling experience interning at The Tobin Project, a nonprofit research organization whose mission is to foster innovative scholarship in the social sciences and allied disciplines. Over the past few months, I’ve been working on three projects: a digital resource that compiles oft-used datasets within the inequality literature, a literature review of publications examining democratic erosion, and some case method proposals for our nascent pedagogy inquiry.

I’ve greatly enjoyed the opportunity to contribute to multiple initiatives within a variety of fields, which has broadened my academic horizons and made each day’s work fresh and exciting. I’m also grateful for the warmth, humor, and expertise of all of The Tobin Project staff, who have fostered a fun, collaborative, and dynamic office culture that includes daily stretch breaks and frequent lunch outings to Harvard Square.

Overall, my time at The Tobin Project has reignited my passion for certain academic disciplines, enhanced my research and writing skills, enabled me to take initiative on projects that I deeply care about, and served as an invaluable source of personal and professional growth. I strongly recommend it to prospective IOP Director’s Interns, particularly those interested in academia, public policy, or economics.

Ricky Li '21

2018 Intern Reflection:

This past summer, I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to work at the Tobin Project right here in Harvard Square. Inspired by the cutting-edge research of Nobel laureate James Tobin, The Tobin Project is a non-profit research organization that catalyzes inquiry addressing the most challenging issues of our time by engaging its vast network of scholars, policy makers, and students. Tobin’s research areas range the span of the social sciences—from the ways in which corporations influence democracy to the consequences of economic inequality.

As an intern this summer, I have primarily helped with The Tobin Project’s National Security initiative as well as with its communications projects. Some of my work so far has involved brushing up on international relations theory in order to write literature reviews as well as working with the National Security team to draft a list of potential scholars within the field to collaborate with in the future. In addition, I have helped with editing Tobin’s communications and updating Tobin’s scholar and policymaker databases.

Since the Tobin Project has such a small and friendly office, I have had opportunities to hear about its other research initiatives and speak with my coworkers about their latest projects as well as engage in fascinating discussions about current events. While much of the research is independent and computer-based, the close-knit office staff eats lunch, stretches, and walks together nearly every day creating a fun, welcoming workplace. Working at the Tobin Project provides a unique summer research and internship position rolled into one. In addition to getting to try nearly every restaurant in the square, you’ll have a chance to improve your research abilities, writing skills, and understanding of the broader field of academia after being at Tobin.

Working at Tobin has helped me to think more critically about the research topics I will pursue while at Harvard and exposed me to new areas of inquiry. Having the chance to work with Tobin’s young research analysts who share similar interests—and learning about the research areas of the impressive scholars in Tobin’s network—I am inspired by the variety of work being done to improve society as well as the intersection between different fields and schools of thought within the social sciences.

Hillary McLauchlin '20

2017 Intern Reflection:

The Tobin Project is dedicated to fostering high quality scholarship on questions important to the public interest, particularly in the realms of democracy, inequality, and natural security. As an intern for the Tobin Project, I am primarily assisting with the organization's When Democracy Breaks and History of American Democracy initiatives. Examples of my assignments include researching metrics of democracy, analyzing historical case studies, investigating pedagogy around teaching history of American democracy, and collaborating with the research analysts to develop and execute strategic plans for Tobin's projects. The work is substantive, engaging, and quite fascinating. While assignments are mostly independent endeavors, the small office (only twelve people) maintains an open, friendly atmosphere with weekly lunches in the Square, morning stretch breaks, and afternoon walks. Overall, the experience has been wonderful, and I would highly recommend it, particularly to students who think they may be interested in academia, public policy, or historical research.

Jessica Levy '18

Boston, MA / Cambridge, MA