Monday, 20 April 2015
The University of Western Australia and the Copenhagen Consensus Center have agreed to establish a new policy research centre, the Australia Consensus Centre (ACC) at the UWA Business School.
The new centre will focus on applying an economic lens to proposals to achieve good for Australia, the region and the world, prioritising those initiatives which produce the most social value per dollar spent.
The new Australia Consensus Centre will be based at UWA but have global reach. It will help frame the debate on aid, Australian prosperity, agriculture and regional issues and focus on smart, long-term priorities. The work of the ACC involves rigorous identification of issues and problems that require analysis, the generation of well-articulated solutions by key Australian and international economists, and assessment and ranking of the best solutions by an expert panel of economists including Nobel Laureates.
The Australian Government grant - The Australia Consensus Programme
The University of Western Australia has received funding of $4 million dollars from the Australian Government Department of Education and Training for the Australia Consensus programme to be undertaken by the Australia Consensus Centre. The Australia Consensus programme aims to identify the key challenges facing Australia and the world and provide advice for the Australian Government to consider relating to potential policy reforms and other interventions that will deliver the most cost-effective solutions. The advice is to be developed using the methodology developed by the Copenhagen Consensus Center.
The Consensus methodology (see Appendix A below for further details) involves:
- Extensive stakeholder engagement to consider the key challenges facing the world and Australia;
- Commissioned cost-benefit analysis research papers addressing these challenges;
- A second tier of review and new perspectives on the challenges by expert economists;
- NGOs, government agencies, aid agencies and businesses providing their perspective within each of the challenges and subsequent public debate;
- Review by a group of Nobel level economists (the "Expert Panel") over a three day period of the challenge and perspective papers and the creation of a ranked list, identifying the best all the way to the worst possible investments for policy-makers and other organizations to create the most social good for every dollar spent;
- A Youth Forum involving university-level students engaging with the same research material as the Nobel-level economists;
- The Expert Panel ranking and the Youth Forum ranking will be presented to the general public for debate.
All research from the ACC will be published and made available in the public domain.
The Consensus through the ACC, will deliver robust, evidence-based knowledge and advice to the Australian Government under three component Consensus methodology projects:
- the Smarter UN Post-2015 Development Goals project
- the Global Consensus 2016 project
- the Australian Prosperity Consensus 2016 project.
All three projects will involve some of Australia's, the region's and the world's top economists. The centre will commission international and Australian economists to generate the economic evidence and rational arguments that will help inform the national and international debate and result in the adoption of smarter, more cost-effective policies.
The cooperation between UWA and the Copenhagen Consensus Center will also mean that the President of Copenhagen Consensus, Dr Bjorn Lomborg, will spend time in Perth and across Australia to encourage a conversation on priorities for aid and development and the future prosperity of Australia. Dr Lomborg has been made an Adjunct Professor of the University of Western Australia.
UWA will be the host University for the Global Consensus 2016 project and Perth the host city. Events will be held in Perth as well as around Australia. Nobel Laureates will visit UWA as well as select Australian cities. The Global Consensus 2016 project will include a Youth Forum hosted at UWA.
The Australia Consensus Programme will support the goals of the University in developing its research profile and strengthening UWA's long-term capacity to deliver policy advice.
Other activities of the ACC
The ACC aims to deliver a fourth Consensus methodology project on Agriculture and the Region Consensus 2018, as well as deliver a fuller Australian Prosperity Consensus if further external funding for the ACC is forthcoming.
Humanity's pressing problem is food security, particularly in the Asian region, and Australia is a critical player in this task. There are numerous opportunities and challenges across different areas from trade, infrastructure and water, to crop research, climate resilience and technology exchange. But there is considerable uncertainty about which additional investments have the greatest potential to support Australia's interests in addressing the food security challenge. The project will draw on the Consensus methodology to involve businesses, government and NGOs as stakeholders in the academic search for the policy options and investments resulting in the most social, economic and environmental value for money.
Funding and Governance
The Australia Consensus programme of the ACC is funded by Australian Government and is supported by the in-kind resources of UWA and the Copenhagen Consensus Center.
The ACC will seek to attract external funding beyond the Australian Government grant. The target total level of funding being sought inclusive of the cash equivalent of in-kind support is around $13 million.
UWA is not be providing cash support for the ACC or its projects. The ACC will always operate within its means and will only undertake additional work beyond the Australia Consensus programme funded by the Australian Government if external funding is forthcoming.
Where it is successful in attracting additional external funding it will undertake a broader programme of activities than the Australia Consensus Project, which will be determined by the partners and approved by the ACC Advisory Board. The broader remit of the ACC, is to develop robust, evidence-based knowledge; and, on the basis of that knowledge, give to the Australian Government, Parliament and people potential policy reforms and other interventions that will deliver the most cost-effective solutions to the most pressing world and Australian challenges.
The ACC will be staffed in the first instance by a Centre Director, a Research Project Manager and media, communications and events personnel. The functions and activities of the Australia Consensus Centre will be overseen by the ACC Advisory Board, which will be co-chaired by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Western Australia (or their delegate) and Dr Lomborg.
The Methodology of the Australia Consensus Centre and Guiding Principles
1. The Australia Consensus Centre collates information from all stakeholders, including the public, to ensure all effective policy options are included.
2. Challenges are grouped into 10 challenge topics where solutions should be researched.
3. Specialist world-class economists are appointed to write papers on the costs and benefits of different smart solutions. Each paper will address one particular challenge , and highlight three to eight solutions . These experts will be sourced where possible from both within the region, but also from elsewhere. Each specialist will be chosen for his or her knowledge of a specific issue, and is required to identify the costs and benefits of feasible solutions to this particular challenge. This will generate 10 research papers containing costs and benefits of investing in 30 to 80 solutions.
4. This work is tested and challenged by a second set of specialist economists, to ensure a wide range of perspectives on the costs and benefits of solutions to each problem. Two alternative perspectives will be commissioned per challenge, and a significant number of these authors could come from Australia and the region. This review process will generate an additional 20 research papers.
5. Stakeholders are invited to comment on the research in short non-academic "viewpoint papers". This will give, for example NGOs, government agencies, aid agencies and businesses the opportunity to provide their perspective within each of the challenges, by commenting on the main research, highlighting economic papers, models and theories to argue for why specific solutions should be ranked higher or lower. This will ensure broad anchoring of the process while all viewpoints and arguments are heard.
6. The public will be involved in the research through stories, newspaper articles, and debate points on each of the challenges. Through this dissemination of knowledge on costs and benefits we will also engage the public in deciding and voting for their top priorities, helping pushing the debate towards smarter solutions.
7. A group of Nobel level economists (the "Expert Panel") will meet, to carefully review the research and engage with the specialist paper authors. They will meet for three days to hear and confront the arguments from the challenge and perspective paper authors. They will debate and deliberate on the individual solutions and as a conclusion create a ranked list, identifying the best all the way to the worst possible investments for policy-makers and other organizations to create the most social good for every dollar spent.
8. At the same time as the Nobel-level meeting takes place, the Australia Consensus Centre will run Youth Forums, where university-level students will engage with the same research material as the Nobel-level economists. They will hear from the same experts, and participate in their own prioritization exercise. This way, civic leaders of tomorrow are actively encouraged to concentrate on the most effective solutions. This will also generate further media interest and civil society engagement.
9. The Expert Panel ranking and the Youth Forum ranking will be presented to the general public, opening a public debate on priorities for development by presenting clear costs and benefits, and encouraging more focus on prioritization.
10. All research will be published and made available in the public domain.
David Stacey (UWA Media and Public Relations Manager) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 32 637 716
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