Call for abstracts for a conference panel session on “Trust in Economics”

UCD Philosophy Prof Maria Baghramian is organizing a conference on “Trust, Expert Opinion and Policy” at the end of the Summer in Dublin and there’s to be a panel on “Trust in Economics”. She has asked me to post this call for abstracts. Should be an interesting event.

Place: University College Dublin
Time: August 31-September 2, 2017

Carlo Martini (University of Helsinki) and Don Ross (University College Cork and University of Cape Town) are organising a special session on

Trust in Economics

embedded in the international conference on Trust, Expert Opinion and Policy  (a multidisciplinary conference investigating questions of trust in and the trustworthiness of expert opinion).

The conference is organised by Professor Maria Baghramian (School of Philosophy, University College Dublin) and Professor Luke Drury (School of Cosmic Physics, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies) as part of their Irish Research Council Project “When Experts Disagree” in collaboration with the project: “The Trinity of Policy-Making: Evidence, Causation, Argumentation”

Keynote speakers at the conference:
Onora O’Neill (University of Cambridge, Philosophy)
Patrick Honohan (Trinity College Dublin, Economics)

Call for Abstracts for the special panel on Trust in Economics

Description of the panel’s topics: What factors influence the extent of public trust in economists? Research and media outlets have recently reported a severe crisis of confidence affecting science, and economics in particular. But available surveys mainly focus on natural and medical sciences. What do we know, based on rigorous and objective surveys, about the attitudes of various publics toward economics? Past and current economic crises and turmoil are often cited to cast doubt on the expertise of economic policy advisors and commentators, but to what extent is this a problem for economics as a science? To what extent does it stem from failures in communication? Are some of the current negative judgments on economics and economists due to lack of adequate effort by economists in building a relation of trust between their science and its public?

We will be selecting a small number of contributed papers addressing, among others, the following questions:

Is there currently a crisis of public trust in economic science?
Do economists value trust in public communication of their science?
Are economists effective in communicating trust?
How should we conceptualize trust in economic expertise?
How can public trust in economics best be empirically studied and measured in surveys?
How can we most effectively build greater public trust in economic expertise?

We invite short abstracts (max 500 words) to be submitted to evidenceandexpertise@gmail.com by July 15 2017. Notifications of accepted papers will be sent out shortly after the deadline.

Deadline for submission of abstracts: July 15 2017

5 thoughts on “Call for abstracts for a conference panel session on “Trust in Economics””

  1. “When Experts Disagree”…the public tend to conclude that at least one and quite possibly both, are wrong.

    Economists do this a lot. Many loud ones are opinionated and often demonstrably wrong. Some effectively function as intellectual enablers for political ideologues, so the “science” is associated, in the public mind, with politics. And the public do not tend to trust politicians, or those associated with them.

    Michael Gove even managed to elevate his fantastical Brexit political manoeuvrings above the fray of wittering experts with his “The public are fed up of experts.” comment. The low water mark for experts perhaps.

    OK, its not an abstract.

    Sounds like an interesting conference.

    1. “What factors influence the extent of public trust in economists?”

      The ‘public’ are not the audience that economists usually address – thus the more realistic question might be – ‘Does the public actually know what economists are waffling on about? Or do they even care?

      “Research and media outlets have recently reported a severe crisis of confidence affecting science, and economics in particular.”

      Hold on here! You cannot place ‘science’ (I’m presuming its Physics and Chemistry or other quantitative science) and economics in the same statement as if to give them equal standing. Economics is actually Political Economy – a social science. QED.

      “What do we know, based on rigorous and objective surveys, about the attitudes of various publics toward economics?”

      Again, the ‘public’ attitude (which cannot be observed, but merely intuited) is irrelevant. I’d guess that many folk are just baffled by econspeak, believe (quite wrongly) that it has little relevance for them, and are shocked when they observe the significant social and financial damage wrought by ill-thought through economic policies on themselves and their communities.

      “Past and current economic crises and turmoil are often cited to cast doubt on the expertise of economic policy advisors and commentators, but to what extent is this a problem for economics as a science?”

      See. Out of their mouths. A sentient economist would never classify economics as a science. Economists may be expert theorists, or whatever, but there are no law-like regularities within economics such that they would have any predictive qualities. None! The ‘Market’ is a pure theoretical construct – but economists posit that it has a real existence. Individuals are not attempting to quantify their utility – hence to maximize it. But economists insist that we believe this rubbish. As for so-called Free Trade theory. It makes Snake Oil look like holistic balm.

      “To what extent does it stem from failures in communication?”

      Its not a ‘failure’ of communication. Folk just hate being patronized. Its just that economists are attempting to cajole folk into accepting dodgy premises based on fluffy assumptions – and those same folk immediately recognise that bullsh*t when they encounter it. The hold their noses, stop listening and move rapidly to a quite location.

      “Are some of the current negative judgments on economics and economists due to lack of adequate effort by economists in building a relation of trust between their science and its public?”

      Is this a genuine question? Its virtually meaningless. If economists insist on deploying ‘Wyssn’ and ‘Manglish’ instead of Plainspeak – and they either do not, nor cannot, monitor the effect on their audiences, then they will be deserving of the distrust and contempt which they will observe being reflected by their audiences. What happens now is that the economists will correctly perceive the observed levels of distrust and contempt and assume that the audience is just a bunch of ignorant clods. So they reach for their megaphones!

      And still we wonder?

  2. Simply posing the question: Is there currently a crisis of public trust in economic science? shows how removed the economics discipline is from reality and how irrelevant much of what its practioners pronounce actually is.

    The public can only form a view of the use, value and credibility of economics via either the direct pronouncements of the practitioners or the way politicians and the media use and communicate what the practitioners are saying and doing. Most practitioners outside of academia are specialist PR operatives who use the jargon and aspects of the discipline selectively to advance the interests of their employers or organisations. The increasing number of academics who straddle the divide between academia and consulting activities behave very similarly to these specialist PR operatives. Of the remainder, quite a few academics keep their heads down, teach and do some research. And there are very few economists who have a high profile in the public policy sphere, but their efforts – and the efforts of any practitioners who are influential behind the scenes in the public sector – are almost invariably trumped by raw, ignorant, visceral politics that panders to a plethora of powerful and influential special interests. And there is little evidence that these practitioners protest very much when this happens. They know on what side their bread is buttered.

    I suspect very few ordinary citizens have a deep understanding of the resources devoted to the practice of economics, but I have never encountered any evidence to suggest that most citizens do not treat the pronouncements of most economists with the cynicism and contempt they deserve. They are perfectly entitled to do this – and perfectly justified to do so. But, over time, it does create a vacuum that may be filled with all sorts of malign nonsense. However, practitioners of the economics discipline are not part of the solution. Upton Sinclair’s aphorism retains its relevance.

  3. This discipline used to be called political economy. Thinking it’s a bloodless scientific field sets it up to fail.

  4. Not entirely unrelated – though I don’t observe a rush to post about them on this board, but the IMF recently issued the fruits of its Article IV deliberations on Ireland:
    http://www.imf.org/en/Publications/CR/Issues/2017/06/26/Ireland-2017-Article-IV-Consultation-Press-Release-and-Staff-Report-45006

    I’m also pleased to see that they have put some effort in to tackling two important issues (the huge discrepancy between market income and post-tax, post-transfer income inequality and the Leprechaun economics of the MNC enclave) in a Selected Issues paper:
    http://www.imf.org/en/Publications/CR/Issues/2017/06/26/Ireland-Selected-Issues-45007

    When these issues are considered in the context of the Scandi high cost of living in Ireland:
    http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/tgm/table.do?tab=table&init=1&language=en&pcode=tec00120&plugin=1

    and the level of Actual Individual Consumption:
    http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/GDP_per_capita,_consumption_per_capita_and_price_level_indices

    it is little wonder that most the of public have little trust in the pronouncements of economists and of the functionaries who employ its jargon.

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