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The Greatest of Them All: Brownie

This is another chapter in the series of posts on Unsung Heroes – those people who have profoundly influenced my life in various ways but have been (wrongly) overlooked, forgotten or ignored by most people. In this post, I pay homage to another musician: the late, great Clifford Brown.

Academics aren’t prone to make grandiose, sweeping statements: for the most part, we think very carefully about any claim we stake in the ground. The same can’t be said of the advertising profession who often bombard us with outrageous (and often specious) claims such as “Quite possibly, the most nutritious breakfast cereal ever”. They can get away with such claims because of the ancient law of ‘puffery’, which provides a vague line in the sand between an exaggeration of the truth and a blatant misrepresentation of the truth (the former is allowed, while the latter is illegal).


Skilled Migrants and Innovation

This blogpost is based on an article (see here for a link to the article ‘Understanding the Impact of Migration on Innovation’) I wrote for a Policy Forum in the June 2014 issue of the Australian Economic Review.

Although immigration debates in the popular press often focus on the perceived negative aspects – e.g. newcomers to a country are ‘stealing’ locals’ jobs –immigrants may actually stimulate innovation, thereby promoting job creation and enhancing productivity in their adopted homeland (in addition to filling shortages for skilled labour). There are a number of reasons why migrants – who could be permanent settlers, temporary workers (or students), or returning expatriates – might be a catalyst for innovation. For example, people movement is one of the main ways in which tacit knowledge moves between regions. Moreover, immigrants bring embodied experience and knowledge from outside cultures and economies. They also act as a circuit breaker for ‘group think’ which would otherwise limit the way societies approach problems.


Photo Essay: U.S. 2014

In February/March this year, I spent some time in the U.S., including the Bay Area (Stanford, Berkeley and San Francisco) and Chicago (my 1st ever trip to this amazing city, even if it was during a winter in which they experienced more snow than Anchorage, Alaska!) Here is a collection of some of the sights.


What is Evidence-Based Policy? (Part II)

In Part I of this blogpost, I outlined the rationale for evidence-based policymaking. Part II focuses on the different approaches that could be used and their relative merits.

In order to determine the effects of a program, the analyst could adopt the following strategies:

i)                    Analyse a number of individuals before and after the ‘treatment’ (i.e. participation in the program). However, this approach will not help the analyst disentangle the effects of the treatment from other contemporaneous factors.

ii)                   Observe two identical individuals (one who receives government assistance and one who doesn’t) and observe them over time. However, it is impossible to have two identical individuals. If there are systematic differences between the two, then it is difficult to disentangle the effects of the policy from differences in the individuals.


What is Evidence-Based Policy? (Part I)

This blogpost comes from a recent Issues Paper I wrote for the Melbourne School of Government, which also contains a countervailing view from my outstanding colleague at the University of Melbourne, Professor Jenny Lewis.

Around election time, politicians often state their support for ‘evidence-based policy’. But what does this really mean and how do we distinguish strong evidence from weak evidence?

The ultimate goal of evidence-based policymaking is better public policies, thereby creating healthier and wealthier societies. Evidence-based policies should also provide taxpayers with more confidence that the Government is spending their hard earned money wisely. Once we agree that these are the right goals to strive for, the question is: how do we get there? Setting lofty, long-term goals is no doubt important, but there is much we can do in the short-term to evaluate how government policies are faring with regard to our ‘healthy and wealthy’ agenda.


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