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Insights 2013: Making Economics Matter in Australian Society


6 June 2013

Professor Colm Harmon
Professor Colm Harmon: "Wherever the assignment of causality and the accuracy and usefulness of predictions is critical, economics plays its key role."

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 aim to answer these questions and more when he delivers his Insights lecture on Thursday 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 - and how that innovation makes Economics such a crucial discipline for society. Drawing on examples from his own research, as well as broader themes, Professor Harmon gives a viewpoint on his discipline as one that provides strong foundations for social progress, and one 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.

"Wherever the assignment of causality and the accuracy and usefulness of predictions is critical, economics plays its key role."

He will explain how this leads us to a better understanding of the nature of labour market behaviour including retirement; health behaviour and utilisation; higher education decisions; and other important economic issues, which are the focus of the lecture.

Despite his optimism and enthusiasm for his subject, it is not clear that economics, or economists, have played as prominent a role in the policy agenda in Australia.This is a puzzle Harmon considers in his talk.He sees that the challenge is to figure out how best to harness Economics for the public good, which involves academics stepping up to the stage and engaging with the policy community, but also involves the policy side and their willingness to consider what economics as a social science is offering.

"As with most things in Economics, it ultimately reduces to a supply and demand problem", notes Professor Harmon.

"Institutions such as the University of Sydney are well versed in translational medicine and other such concepts - we need the same effort in social science 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

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Contact: Kate Mayor

Phone: 02 9351 2208; 0434 561 056

Email: 401615521806251b032a031b21031b3d2d014e351e41591f