Tim Hayward

I notice that an old encyclopaedia entry of mine on Anthropocentrism has reached ‘top 3%’ of articles on the site.  It’s gratifying to be in a top-something list of something, whatever it means, but more interesting is to find that anthropocentrism today seems to be a much more discussed topic than it was at my earlier time of writing.

Recently, I’ve been wondering, do we have robust intuitions about what it means to treat nonhumans fairly?  A difficulty I noted in the article is that ‘it is hard to apply the Golden Rule – “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” – if the others are so constitutionally different as to render the necessary comparison impossible.’  But how  different from us humans are other inhabitants of this planet?  Is some empathy and understanding not possible in many cases?  We adjust for different needs and…

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Government-sponsored policy research: getting the right balance between academic quality and ‘usefulness’

Politics, Knowledge & Migration

I was recently reviewing a (non-UK) government-sponsored research centre, and was struck by the tension between two goals. On the one hand, the government funders were keen to ensure the centre had solid academic credentials, and was carrying out work that was internationally recognised. On the other, it wanted the researchers to supply quite applied data and analysis to inform decision-making or debate, for example in the form of specific policy evaluations, briefings or even answering parliamentary questions.

These two types of function are, of course, very difficult to combine. Academic research worthy of its name requires a readiness to critically scrutinise concepts and assumptions employed by policy makers. It typically requires a far longer lead-in, and may focus on describing phenomena in a way that is not obviously relevant to policy, or developing generalisable claims that aren’t sufficiently specific to guide decision-making on particular policy problems. Often, rather than supplying…

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