Nir Vulkan is Associate Professor of Business Economics at Saïd Business School and Fellow of Worcester College, both at the University of Oxford. He is a leading authority on e-commerce and market design, and on applied research and teaching on hedge funds.
Nir is author of one of the leading texts on the microeconomics of e-commerce, The Economics of E-Commerce: A Strategic Guide to Understanding and Designing the Online Marketplace. The book analyses online trading mechanisms and the way in which web-based technologies such as bidding elves, smart agents and shopping bots, influence the behaviour of consumers and retailers.
More recently, Nir has edited, with Al Roth and Zvika Neeman, The Handbook of Market Design. The handbook contains a selection of the latest research in the growing field of market design, and draws on Vulkan’s interest and expertise in markets, both virtual and those confined to particular geographical locations. He is particularly interested in how lessons from successful and unsuccessful markets can be learned and transferred to different environments. Part of the book examines issues raised by the fact that the internet is now the preferred platform for most markets, and the wide choice this gives consumers. He also examines markets linked to geography where participants have little choice.
Nir did a BSc in Mathematics and Computer Science at Tel Aviv University and gained a doctorate in Economics at University College, London, where he was awarded the Dean Scholarship for excellence in PhD studies. He became a Lecturer at Bristol University in 1997, and in 2001 moved to Saïd Business School. He was the Director of the Oxford Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (OxCEI) and the co-founder and Director of OxLab, a laboratory for social science experiments, both at Saїd Business School.
The main areas of Nir’s current research are market design, e-commerce, automated negotiations, personality and strategic behaviour and entrepreneurship.
This research examines markets of all kinds and aims to understand the behaviour of participants, in order to transfer the learning to other environments. Now that much commercial interaction occurs online, market transactions are influenced by web-based technologies that include automation and agents such as shopping bots, as well as factors such as increased choice for both retailers and consumers.
This explores the use of technological ‘agents’ in e-commerce, which enable consumers to conduct automated comparisons, and sellers to access visitors’ background information. These software programmes can also make decisions for individuals, negotiate with other programmes and participate in online auctions. This kind of automation presents new opportunities and challenges.
This aspect of Nir’s research examines the role of personality in decision-making and economic or strategic behaviour. This kind of research has been mostly confined to the field of psychology, but now economists are conducting experiments in order to understand what effect personality has on economic decision-making. For example, in a recent paper Nir and his colleagues looked at the role of anxiousness and aggressiveness in a two-player game and discussed the possible mechanism through which personality affects strategic behaviour.
Nir is conducting research, jointly with Sabrina Böwe of Humboldt University in Berlin, into the role that personality plays in entrepreneurship and economic decision-making more broadly. Nir and Sabrina are looking at how entrepreneurs differ from others using the ‘Five Factor Model’ of personality, OCEAN: openness to experience; conscientiousness (self-discipline and motivation); extraversion; agreeableness (concern for social harmony); and neuroticism). The model helps them predict how people solve problems, perceive situations or perform at work. Some previous studies on this issue have found that entrepreneurs scored consistently highly on conscientiousness and openness to experience and significantly lower than others on agreeableness and neuroticism. Nir and Sabrina are designing and carrying out experiments to build on research in this field and investigate the interaction between personality, context and economic incentives. Early results indicate that entrepreneurs negotiate more successfully in certain situations and further analysis is taking place to clarify why this is the case.
Nir acts as a consultant to technology companies and has developed software for specific applications within companies.
He has developed models widely used in e-commerce, trading and hedge funds.
Nir travels extensively to give seminars and talks and to participate in conferences, and has spoken at numerous universities in Europe, the Middle East and the USA.
He acts as referee for a number of academic journals on economics.
Watch Nir's interview with CNBC about Apple's new iPad and classroom software.
Nir wrote and developed the core Managerial Economics course for the MBA and EMBA programmes and until recently taught the module. He has also been involved in designing and developing the Entrepreneurial Project and now runs this course. He supervises DPhil and MPhil students. He has also taught a popular MBA elective course on hedge funds and trading, and a course on e-commerce.
Nir believes that students learn by doing, and therefore games, role-plays and projects form a large part of his courses. The Managerial Economics course features a trading game, while both this course and the Entrepreneurial Project draw on current case studies, which are discussed and analysed by students.
Nir is also the co-author (with Pasquale Scaramozzino) of two distance-learning courses, Qualitative Methods for Financial Management and Managerial Economics, used by the University of London Distance Learning Masters in Economics programme all over the world.
Nir is also the course convenor for three new online programmes: Fintech, Blockchain Strategy & Algorithmic Trading.
Saïd Business School
University of Oxford
Park End Street