Panel Discussion: 'Is a post-truth world a post-expert world?'

Past Event

25 January 2017, 6:00pm - 7:15pm

Lecture Theatre, Oxford Martin School
34 Broad Street (corner of Holywell and Catte Streets), Oxford, OX1 3BD

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Winston Churchill advised that “experts should be on tap but never on top”. In 2017, is a post-truth world a post-expert world? What does this mean for future debates on difficult policy issues? And what place can researchers usefully occupy in an academic landscape that emphasises policy impact but a political landscape that has become wary of experts? Join us for a lively discussion on academia and the provision of policy advice, examining the role of evidence and experts and exploring how gaps with the public and politicians might be bridged.

This event will be chaired by Achim Steiner, Director of the Oxford Martin School and former Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, with panellists including Oxford Martin Visiting Fellow Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of New Zealand and Chair of the International Network for Government Science Advice; Dr Gemma Harper, Deputy Director for Marine Policy and Evidence and Chief Social Scientist in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and Professor Stefan Dercon, Chief Economist of the Department for International Development (DFID) and Professor of Economic Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government.

This discussion will be followed by a drinks reception, all welcome.

About the panel

Achim Steiner was appointed Director of the Oxford Martin School on 1st September 2016. Prior to joining the University of Oxford he served as United Nations Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (2006-2016).

During his tenure at the United Nations, Mr Steiner helped to position UNEP as a central global player on issues such as climate change, technology innovation, ecosystems management and the role of markets and the private sector in sustainable development. He also led UNEP through a major reform and transformation process culminating in the UN General Assembly establishing a new UN Environment Assembly in 2014, to foster more effective global environmental cooperation and governance. As Executive Director he pioneered a number of new major initiatives linking economic and environmental transitions such as on the green economy, finance, energy, and resource management. Mr Steiner also served as a member of the UN Secretary General’s Chief Executive Board and chaired the UN System’s High Level Committee on Programmes.

During his career, which he began as a development economist and which gradually led him into the broader arena of sustainable development, international relations and global diplomacy, Mr Steiner has led a number of institutions as Chief Executive, including as Secretary General of the World Commission on Dams, Director General of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Director General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON). He has lived and worked in Oman, UK, India, Pakistan, Germany, Zimbabwe, USA, Vietnam, South Africa, Switzerland and Kenya.

He currently serves on a number of Boards and Councils – including as International Vice-Chair of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, as Chair of the AGORA Verkehrswende Council, Germany, and as a member of the International Olympic Committee’s Sustainability and Legacy Commission.

Mr Steiner was born in Brazil and holds both Brazilian and German nationality. He graduated in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (MA) at the University of Oxford, holds an MA from the University of London/School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), and completed his post-graduate studies at the German Development Institute as well as the Harvard Business School Executive Programme. He has been awarded a doctorate honoris causa by the International University in Geneva and is an Honorary Professor at Tongji University, Shanghai. His work and leadership have been recognised through numerous awards such as the Talberg Foundation's Award for Principled Pragmatism, the Bruno H. Schubert Prize for Environmental Leadership, the Slovak Republic's Gold Medal for Diplomatic Service, the Republic of Korea Order of Diplomatic Service Award and the German Sustainability Award. Mr Steiner is an Officer of the Order of St Charles.

Stefan Dercon is Professor of Economic Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government and the Economics Department, and a Fellow of Jesus College. He is also Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economics.

Since 2011 he has been Chief Economist of the Department for International Development (DFID), the government department in charge with the UK’s aid policy and spending. While he returned to Oxford in 2015 to teach and conduct research, he continues with his role at DFID on a part-time basis.

Stefan is a development economist, applying economic analysis and statistics to understand the causes and consequences of poverty and the key economic development challenges of developing countries. He has worked extensively in Ethiopia and Tanzania, as well as in India, Peru, Vietnam, Kenya and other countries. One specific area of interest is the study of the consequences of climatic, health and other risks faced by poor populations, their impact on poverty and the quest for appropriate public policy responses. His book, Dull Disasters: How Planning Ahead Will Make A Difference, co-authored with Daniel Clarke, was published in 2016 by Oxford University Press.

Sir Peter Gluckman is the first Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, having been appointed in 2009. He is also science envoy for the New Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He was originally trained as a paediatric endocrinologist and holds a Distinguished University Professorship at the Liggins Institute (for medical research) of the University of Auckland. He was formerly Executive Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (1992-2001) and Foundation Director of the Liggins Institute (2001-2009). He is also Chief Science Officer for the Singapore Institute of Clinical Sciences (2007- present). He has honorary appointments at the University of Southampton, National University of Singapore and University College, London

His research has been in pediatric endocrinology and developmental biology and more recently in evolutionary biology applied to medicine, epigenetics and developmental pathways to disease and in particular pathways to obesity and diabetes He has published over 700 scientific papers and reviews, books for both technical and lay audiences. From 2014-21016 he co-chaired the WHO Commission to End Childhood Obesity.

He has received the highest scientific (Rutherford Medal) and civilian (Order of New Zealand, limited to 20 living persons) honours in New Zealand and numerous international scientific awards. He is a Fellow of the Royals Society of London, a member of the National Academy of Medicine (USA) and of the Academy of Medical Sciences (UK).

He has written extensively on science-policy interactions and science diplomacy. He is Chair of the International Network for Governmental Science Advice and of the APEC Chief Science Advisors and Equivalents group. He is the convenor of the Small Advanced Economies Initiative and administers the initiative’s secretariat. In 2016 he received the AAAS award for science and diplomacy.

Dr Gemma Harper is Deputy Director for Marine Policy and Evidence and Chief Social Scientist in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). She is responsible for delivering the UK Government’s vision of ‘clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas’. She is also responsible for ensuring social science – which aims to put people at the heart of Defra’s policy making – is of high quality and underpins strategy, policy and delivery.

Gemma studied social psychology at London School of Economics and Political Science. During her post-doctoral research in the Department of Agricultural and Food Economics, University of Reading, she contributed to a range of national and international research projects. After eight years in criminal justice research at the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice, Gemma joined Defra in 2010. At Defra she led Strategic Evidence and Analysis, followed by the Strategy Unit, Animal and Plant Health Evidence and Analysis, and Plants, Bees and Seeds policy and evidence.

Gemma is a member of the Government Social Research Leadership Board, the Cross Government Evaluation Group, the Social Research Association Strategy Group and the Public Policy Committee of the British Academy. She is currently a Policy Fellow at the Centre for Science and Policy, University of Cambridge. Gemma co-authored, with members of the Defra/DECC Social Science Expert Panel, an article on Judging research quality to support evidence-informed environmental policy.