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Akerlof, Helliwell appointed CIFAR Distinguished Fellows

by Kurt Kleiner
Jun 29 / 17

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The CIFAR Board of Directors appointed economists George Akerlof and John Helliwell as CIFAR Distinguished Fellows at its meeting June 13.


This title is CIFAR’s highest honour, which recognizes individuals who have made sustained research contributions at a significant level of originality and impact and who have had long-term participation and commitment to CIFAR.

Akerlof and Helliwell are both CIFAR senior fellows, and the founding Co-Directors of the Social Interactions, Identity & Well-Being program.

Akerlof is a Nobel Laureate, University Professor at Georgetown University and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley. In addition to his role as Program Co-Director, he is a Senior Fellow in CIFAR’s Institutions, Organizations & Growth program. Akerlof’s work in recent years has emphasized the need for economics to incorporate concepts from sociology such as identity, social categories and norms. He is a former president of the American Economic Association, and received the Kiel Institute Global Economy Prize.

Helliwell is a Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of British Columbia, and is the editor of the World Happiness Report, which annually ranks happiness and other indicators of well-being in countries around the globe. His areas of interest include well-being, social capital, applied macroeconomics, international economics, comparative economic growth, and natural resource economics. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada, and a recipient of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Award.

The Social Interactions, Identity & Well-Being program played a central role in shifting traditional paradigms in economics and in psychology. Fellows within the program have developed novel approaches to social programs and policies on a wide range of topics, for example reducing bullying in school, improving well-being and connectedness after retirement, and increasing belonging and integration for new immigrants.

Only six researchers have been named Distinguished Fellows in CIFAR’s history. In 2015, Geoffrey Hinton, known as the “godfather of deep learning,” was honoured. Biochemist W. Ford Doolittle received the title in 2008, economist Bob Evans in 2002, and physicist Werner Israel in 2002.