Dave says we’re headed in the right direction, what do you think?

PM David Cameron claims we are ‘headed in the right direction’. Below are the latest headline figures from the Office of National Statistics website on the state of our national finances (so all their words, not mine, I’ve just added a few helpful highlights):

Latest figures (Nov 2011)

  • Public sector net borrowing was £17.5 billion in November 2012; this is £1.2 billion higher net borrowing than in November 2011, when net borrowing was £16.3 billion.
  • Public sector current budget deficit was £15.8 billion in November 2012; this is a £1.0 billion higher deficit than in November 2011, when there was a deficit of £14.8 billion.
  • For the period April to November 2012, public sector net borrowing (excluding the capital payment recorded as part of the Royal Mail Pension Plan transfer in April 2012) was £92.7 billion; this is £8.3 billion higher net borrowing than in the same period the previous year, when net borrowing was £84.4 billion.
  • In 2011/12, public sector net borrowing was £121.6 billion; this is £4.4 billion lower than the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasted net borrowing for 2011/12 of £126.0 billion.
  • Public sector net debt was £1083.6 billion at the end of November 2012, equivalent to 68.5% of gross domestic product (GDP).

As far as I can see the only ‘positive’ in this is that public sector net borrowing was less than the OBR forecast, but it was still higher than the previous year.

Restructuring the Social Sciences? What do you think?

My attention was drawn to this article by the head of Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science. Some commentators have been highly sceptical, pointing out the massive recent failures of the queen of quantitative social science, economics, for example.

My own initial reaction is that whilst King’s claims may be somewhat overblown, and they do minimise the problems, both within social sciences and between social scientists and policy makers, they do point to some very interesting developments and possibilities in the development of social sciences. I am wondering what others think? Comments welcome!

Restructuring the Social Sciences
Gary King* January 1, 2013

The social sciences are undergoing a dramatic transformation from studying problems to solving them; from making due with a small number of sparse data sets to analyzing increasing quantities of diverse, highly informative data; from isolated scholars toiling away on their own to larger scale, collaborative, interdisciplinary, lab-style research teams; and from a purely academic pursuit to having a major impact on the world. To facilitate these important developments, universities, funding agencies, and governments need to shore up and adapt the infrastructure that supports social science research. We discuss some of these developments here, as well as a new type of organization we created at Harvard to help encourage them — the Institute for Quantitative Social Sciences. An increasing number of universities are beginning efforts to respond with similar institutions. This paper provides some suggestions for how individual universities might respond and how we might work together to advance social science more generally.


IPPR, the Cabinet Office and me (not). Or why I’ll be more careful about collaborating with think tanks in the future.

When the Cabinet Office advertised their “outsourced” project to get advice about how some other countries manage the relationship between Ministers and Mandarins they made it clear they wanted a think-tank or University to bid for it. This is the (brief) version of how I was part, and then not part, of the winning bid. Continue reading