Experimental economics at the University of Arizona has a long and distinguished tradition, dating from the mid-1970s.
The University hosted four important early conferences that helped create the field, the Tucson Experimental Workshops of 1977, 1979,1984, and 1986. At the last of these meetings, in February, 1986, a proposal to create the Economic Science Association, the ESA, was presented by Vernon L. Smith, the founder of ESL and eventual 2002 Nobel Laureate. The ESA was formally created in October 1986, and the Tucson Experimental Workshops continued every autumn as the Economic Science Association meetings. In recent years ESA conferences have been held in locations around the world, but the ESA North American regional meetings are returning to Tucson in the fall of 2016.
The Economic Science Laboratory was established in July 1985 with Smith as its founding research director. He remained director until 2001, followed by James Cox (2001-2005), John Wooders (2006-2008, 2011-2012), Martin Dufwenberg (2008-2010, 2012-2013), Andreas Blume (2013-2015), and Charles Noussair (2015). Since 1985, data gathered at ESL has served as the basic for hundreds of publications in economics and other disciplines.