The CoE’s focus of research was on phenomena and institutions related to the theoretical and practical interaction between politics and economy. Its interests were thus genuinely multidisciplinary, comprising both economics, political research and social philosophy.
The classic public choice approach uses microeconomic concepts to study politics. The CoE was also interested to test the limits of this classic strategy, i.e. to see how far politics can be understood in the light of rational choice.
Researchers at the CoE were Finland’s leading experts in their field when measured by the volume of scientific publications. They had also contributed to and compiled several volumes published by major foreign publishers in various areas of public choice research. The researchers at Turku – the main centre for public choice research in Finland – worked closely with international colleagues, and they had hosted several major international conferences and meetings.
The aim of the public choice research was to convey a broad picture of the principles of democratic governance and institutional design. One area of special interest was the process of democratic selection of multimember decision-making bodies (parliaments, committees, etc.), the way they work and the way they have developed. Specific research questions included: How can voters be given greater opportunities to express their views about candidates and policy options? What role should be given to public debate in the process of democratic decision-making? What practical implications do the results from the theory of social choice have?
Another area of research interest was the principles of cost-benefit sharing in multimember organisations, such as national parliaments and particularly European Union institutions. This interest in the EU was largely inspired by the review of the Constitution and the revisions that had been proposed. Studies of EU budget allocation policies were a major line of work. Important research questions included the following: What kind of cost-benefits sharing between the Member States is realistic and fair? What kinds of decision rules within EU institutions guarantee adequate functioning and on the other hand adequate minority protection?
Relations between the public and private sector are one of the most traditional areas of study in public choice research. Here, specific interests included factors impacting the size and structure of the public sector, relations between business and government as well as systems of income distribution in different countries. The CoE’s research aims included addressing such questions as how changes brought about by globalisation affect the powers and functions of government.
The CoE was headed by Academy Professor Hannu Nurmi, Professor at the University of Turku Department of Political Science. The CoE comprised the Department of Philosophy, Department of Economics, and Department of Political Science at the University of Turku; the Department of Economics at the Turku School of Economics; and the Institute of Social Economics at the University of Hamburg.
The CoE had a research staff of 19, including nine adjunct professors, two PhD researchers and eight doctoral students. Each year, the CoE hosted 2–3 visiting researchers for a few months at a time.