Thursday, 4 December 2014

Thoughts on the Royal Economic Society Annual Public Lecture 2014

By Viva Avasthi

Last week I attended the RES Awards Evening and Annual Public Lecture at the Royal Institution in London. As you may be aware, my essay for the RES Young Economist of the Year competition was awarded joint third place. Below you can see some pictures from the evening. I end this post with some thoughts on Stephanie's lecture and the event as a whole.

Receiving my award from Sir Charlie Bean.
He is the President of the RES and was one of the judges.

With Stephanie Flanders, who was another judge, and
who I believe is an excellent role model for young women.
"Hooray for women in economics!"

After an interesting discussion with Sir Charlie Bean on reforms
to the undergraduate economics syllabus, the economic situation in Japan, 
and how the most important recent contribution of economics has arguably 
been the rapid development of the Asian and sub-Saharan African countries.

Stephanie gave a fascinating lecture entitled
“What journalists should know about economists – and vice versa”.

Stephanie's lecture and the slides from her presentation can be accessed from here and I highly recommend you take a look. She gave an engaging and coherent lecture and answered the audience's questions admirably.

Her talk particularly resonated with me because it covered many of the same bases as my essays for the RES and Cambridge Marshall Economics Society had done. Both she (in parts of her lecture) and I looked at whether the advanced economies had entered a new downwards trend or whether this stagnation we are seeing is just part of a cycle, and at the problems with economic forecasting.

I was very interested in whether in her role at JP Morgan she could see any promising developments which might significantly improve economic forecasting: developments such as nowcasting, for example. I asked her this question during the Q&A session following her lecture. Rather than read my paraphrased version of her answer, you can hear her exact response from 66:40 to 68:40 in the video of the lecture. In my essay on economic forecasting I acknowledged that it is only the minority of economists who make forecasts, and that forecasting by its nature is immensely difficult and so forecasts should never be taken too seriously. I completely agreed, therefore, with Stephanie's comment that the role of economics shouldn't be to allow economists to make forecasts but should be to do with illuminating why changes in economies occur. However, I would have really liked it if she had highlighted any other new techniques (besides nowcasting, that is) being developed to improve forecasting. Perhaps she did not name any because there haven't been any substantial developments yet? If you are aware of any important developments, please do share them with me in the comments section below.

Overall, the evening was a wonderful one. It was great fun meeting the other essay competition winners, listening to Stephanie Flanders' lecture and discussing topics of interest with Sir Charlie Bean. It was also lovely having a chance encounter at the event with Mag Paczocha, an author on this blog, whom I had never met in person before!


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