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Sociology: People


Taylor Spears

Taylor Spears
Dr Taylor Spears
Honorary Fellow -- School of Social and Political Science
Research Interests
Social Studies of Finance, Derivatives Markets, Economic Sociology, Sociology of Organisations, Fair Value Accounting, Mathematical Modelling

Research Profile:

My academic research focuses on the historical development and shaping of financial modelling and risk management practices. I'm particularly interested in the relationship between the historical emergence of modelling practices and changes in financial regulation and accounting.

My PhD thesis examined the ‘evaluation culture’ of derivatives ‘quants’ working in the over-the-counter markets for interest rate derivatives tied to Libor. Drawing on data from interviews with quants, financial mathematicians, and economists conducted primarily in the United Kingdom and the United States, combined with fieldwork at derivatives ‘quant’ conferences and an extensive set of technical sources, my thesis explores the historical development and contemporary patterning of modelling practices that are used within derivatives dealer banks to price and hedge Libor-based interest rate derivatives. Moreover, my thesis uses the historical development of interest-rate modelling techniques, beginning in the late 1970s, as a lens through which to understand the establishment, differentiation and separation of this ‘derivatives quant’ evaluation culture as a body of knowledge and practice distinct from financial economics.

Curriculum Vitae (pdf)

Google Scholar Profile

Working Papers:

The Price of an Uncertain Promise: Fair Value Accounting and the Shaping of Bank Counterparty Risk Valuation Practices. Updated: March 2018.

Discounting Collateral:  Quants, Derivatives, and the Reconstruction of the ‘Risk-Free Rate’ after the Financial Crisis. Updated: July 2017.


Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles:

'The Formula That Killed Wall Street?' The Gaussian Copula and Modelling Practices in Investment Banking (2014). Donald MacKenzie and Taylor Spears (2014), Social Studies of Science, 44: 393-417

A device for being able to book P&L: The Organizational Embedding of the Gaussian Copula (2014), Donald MacKenzie and Taylor Spears (2014), Social Studies of Science, 44: 418-440.

“Do entrepreneurs really learn? Or do they just tell us that they do?” (2012) Frankish, J., Roberts, R.G., Coad, A., Spears, T.C., Storey, D.J. Industrial and Corporate Change 22(1), pp. 73-106. doi: 10.1093/icc/dts016

Contributions to Edited Volumes

Matching the Market: Calibration and the Working Practices of Quants (2017). Finance at Work, Valérie Boussard (ed.), Routledge.

The Cognitive Sociology of Toxic Assets (2015). Taylor Spears and Donald MacKenzie, in Archiv für Mediengeschichte, 14: pp. 163

Essays and Commentary

Fighting Over Financial ModelsRisk & Regulation, Spring 2014.

Book Reviews

Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception (2017), Quantitative Finance, 17(2): 165-167.


In 2016, I jointly designed and convened (with Nathan Coombs) the department's MSc/Honours course on Economic Sociology. I have also previously lectured on topics related to the sociology of markets, economic sociology, and quantitative methods.

Professional Service:

I am happy to review manuscripts related to my area of expertise. I have previously reviewed for: American Journal of Sociology, Cambridge University Press, Industrial and Corporate Change, Journal of Management Studies, Journal of Responsible Innovation, Research Policy, Social Studies of Science, Technology and Culture, and Valuation Studies.