Trials and Tribulations in Economics. New directions for economic policy evidence.

26th September 2014
Goldsmiths, University of London

This is the third seminar in the ESRC Spaces of Evidence seminar series: Trials and Tribulations in Economics. New directions for economic policy evidence. The seminar will be led by Dr Will Davies  (Goldsmiths – ). It will be held on September 26th 2014, at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Economics and economists have a long history of providing a scientific basis or justification for public policy decisions. Concepts derived from welfare economics, such as ‘market failure’, have provided a language through which politicians and government officials can understand where and why the state might (and might not) intervene in market processes. The efficiency of potential regulation can be tested through the use of models, based on neo-classical assumptions.

However, events such as the financial crisis have thrown a renewed scepticism upon the capacity of orthodox economic theories to adequately model situations. At the same time, a new empiricism has emerged, which makes a bold appeal to data and field trials, which are purportedly less cluttered by normative assumptions about causality and probability. ‘Big Data’ and randomised controlled trials are at the forefront of new efforts to probe economic activity, in search of policies which ‘work’. The distinction between ‘model’ and ‘reality’ is abandoned, and the economy becomes treated as a zone of experimentation and data-mining, such that behavioural patterns can be discerned.

The seminar will explore the implications of these new directions in economic evidence, and ask what they mean for the authority of public policy, how they reconfigure expertise, and what types of epistemological and political assumptions they conceal. The confirmed speakers are:

Prof Angus Deaton – Princeton University (Keynote lecture).
Dr Suzy Moat – University of Warwick
Dr Max Nathan – London School of Economics
Dr Vera Ehrenstein – Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr Martin Giraudeau – London School of Economics
Dr Zsuzsanna Vargha – University of Leicester
Dr Tiago Mata – University College London

Venue: the event will take place in The Orangery, Surrey House, 80 Lewisham Way, London SE14 6PB (this building is located less than 5 minutes from the main Goldsmiths campus, as shown here).

Nearest stations: New Cross Gate and New Cross (for more details of how to find Goldsmiths campus click here).

The seminar is open to all, but registration is required. For further information or to reserve a place, please write to Daniela Boraschi, programme coordinator, at