Since the war it has become increasingly common for prominent men in speeches or in interviews to urge that the University should keep in closer touch with the outside world. To what extent this demand has been met few people realize. That there is an organization conducted by the University which is today playing a vital part in the industrial world is generally unknown.
such an organization is the Harvard University Committee on Economic Research. This committee, now headed by Professor Charles F. Bullock, was appointed in the spring of 1917 with a view to making more adequate provision for scientific investigation in economics. Believing that its first enterprise should be in the field of economic statistics, Professor Warren M. Persons of Colorado College was engaged to make a thorough study of existing methods of collecting and interpreting economic statistics. Professor Persons was well known to the scientific world through various papers which he has published upon statistical methods and results. He is now in charge of the editing of the publication of the committee.
Investigation Aided by Many Gifts
The Committee on Economic Research offers to business men a practical statistical service based on scientific principles. Financial conditions, particularly the trend of prices, are carefully studied, and from them a forecast of future conditions is made. In addition to the general study of economic situations, several special investigations have been made possible by gifts from Mr. Frank A. Vanderlip, Philip Cabot '94, the Consolidated Steel Corporation, the American International Corporation, J. P. Morgan & Company, the National City Bank of New York, the United States Steel Products Company (the exporting branch of the United States Steel Corporation), and W. R. Grace & Company.
In short, the Committee on Economic Research has many of the features of the "Technology Plan"; it offers to business men concerned primarily with the financial side of industry much the same kind of service that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers to business men concerned more with the technical side of industry.
Committee Publishes Monthly Reviews
The result of all investigations undertaken by the committee for private individuals are always published in the Monthly Review. The Review of Economic Statistics constitutes the chief part of the statistical service. In it an index of speculative, general business and banking activity is given and a careful interpretive analysis made from this index, together with a forecast of general business conditions for the coming month. Finally there is an appendix of current statistics covering domestic and international trade.
The method used in forecasting business conditions is one which has been developed after much study, great care having been taken that it should be one which would not be affected by temporary fluctuations in the financial world. The method used is based upon statistical analysis supplemented by economic analysis. The statistical analysis requires the correction of the actual statistics so that the corrected figures will show the true ebb and flow of business prosperity and depression, while the economic analysis consists of a careful examination of the underlying economic structure of the past and present.
That the committee has been successful in its initial three years is shown by the list of firms on its subscription list. Although the annual rate of $100 materially limits the number of subscribers, the Statistical Service is now taken by nearly 300 individuals, firms and corporations, representing the leading manufacturing, commercial and financial interests of the United States.