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Insights 2013: Making Economics Matter in Australian Society


6 June 2013

The challenge is to figure out how to best harness economics for the public good, says Professor Colm Harmon.
The challenge is to figure out how to best harness economics for the public good, says Professor Colm Harmon.

How does modern economics lay foundations for social progress? And how best can we harness economics for the public good in Australia?

Professor Colm Harmon, Head of the School of Economics at the University of Sydney, will consider these questions and more in his Insights lecture this evening.

Titled Evidence-Based Policy or Policy-Based Evidence? Making Economics Matter in Australian Society, Professor Harmon will discuss the innovative aspects of modern economics that make it such a crucial discipline for society.

Drawing on examples from his own research, as well as broader themes, Professor Harmon will argue the discipline of economics provides strong foundations for social progress, and that is increasingly open to influence from the wider social sciences.

"The innovation in economics stems from how the discipline now can connect with other human sciences and the policy community in a way that has not been achievable before now," says Professor Harmon.

"Economics plays a key role wherever the assignment of causality and the accuracy and usefulness of predictions is critical."

He will explain how economics helps us to a better understand how people behave in all sorts of markets and systems - including in the labour market, the health system and the higher education sector.

Despite his optimism and enthusiasm for his subject, Professor Harmon believes economists could be playing a more prominent a role in shaping Australia's policy agenda in Australia.

He believes the challenge is to figure out how to best harness economics for the public good. This requires academics engaging with the policy community, but it also needs policy makers to show a willingness to consider what the social science of economics is offering.

"Institutions such as the University of Sydney are well versed in translational medicine and other such concepts," notes Professor Harmon.

"We need the same effort in social sciences, including economics. Equally we need the policy community to value research at the frontier and try to harness that into their thinking."


Event details

What: Evidence-Based Policy or Policy-Based Evidence? Making Economics Matter in Australian Society, part of the Insights 2013 lecture series by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

When: 6pm, Thursday 6 June. Refreshments served in the Nicholson Museum from 5.30pm

Where: General Lecture Theatre 1, the Quadrangle, Camperdown Campus
Cost: $10

Book now online


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Media enquiries: Kath Kenny, 02 9351 1584, 0478 303 173, kath.kenny@sydney.edu.au