This post is the third of a Communicating Economics series outlining what I’ve been reading, attending or thinking about over the past week or so.



There’s a lot of expectation for researchers to show ‘impact’ these days – except it seems when impact matters most: to help voters make informed choices during election campaigns. That at least is the view of the Economic and Social Research Council and other public funding agencies, which issue edicts to the researchers and institutions they support to observe the ‘purdah’ that applies to public bodies.


Fortunately, independent-minded economic research organisations ignore this guidance and produce thoughtful evidence-based commentaries to help journalists and voters make sense of key issues in the public debate. They have been particularly busy during a week in which the manifestos of the three main national parties have been published – the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats. For example:

  • General election analysis from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has covered tax plans, education, public sector pay, pensions and social care. On Tuesday, the IFS is hosting a press briefing on the Conservative and Labour manifestos.
  • Former IFS director and current warden of Nuffield College, Oxford, Sir Andrew Dilnot, who reviewed the funding system for social care for the coalition government in 2011, has weighed in on the Conservatives’ proposals.
  • The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) has published an overview of the economic landscape of the UK by their director Jagjit Chadha, as well as a series of comment pieces on productivity, meritocracy and investing in children.
  • The Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) at the London School of Economics has published the first of a series of election analyses – on real wages and living standards. More will follow this coming week on education, health, immigration, industrial strategy, regional policy and Brexit.
  • The UK Trade Policy Observatory at the University of Sussex has published commentaries on what the manifestos say about international trade, a key issue ahead of Brexit negotiations.

To help journalists analyse the parties’ policy proposals, Diane Coyle and I have a directory of over 65 economists available to provide evidence and expert insights, all collected under the hashtag #GE2017Economists.


Economists who haven’t yet signed up are welcome to join us; and journalists who would like the list of researchers should get in touch with Diane or me via email or Twitter.


Away from the election, the past couple of weeks have seen several posts on the VoxEU and LSE blogs drawing on research presented at the Royal Economic Society (RES) annual conference earlier in the spring. These are good examples of how economists can make their work accessible and relevant to audiences beyond academia:

Also coming out of the RES conference are a series of short films relevant to the UK’s election debates, made by Bob Denham’s Econ Films:

Still on the issue of grammar schools, Bristol education economist Simon Burgess and colleagues have published a new paper on their role or otherwise in promoting social mobility.


One big issue for the UK economy that has been neglected in the election debate is productivity, a topic covered in a new OECD research report on ‘Great Divergences as differences in wages and productivity between firms become ever wider, even for firms operating in the same sector.


Former CEP director John Van Reenen and colleagues have also raised questions this week about productivity, with a new report on the important role of management practices.


Finally, a welcome return to my roots in book publishing this week, when I invited Richard Baggaley of London Publishing Partnership to contribute to Communicating Economics. We need more economists writing books, he concludes.