[Update: I’ve added Amy’s mind-changer. Joshua’s is here.]
My friend and coauthor Amy King is in the governance stream for the AustraliaÂ 2020 summit, and has kindly allowed me to post her 100-word big idea (and 100-word mindchanging experience) for the summit.
Question: If you could do one thing in your stream area, what would it be? What is it that you think would make the most difference?
My goal in the governance stream is to find ways to provide more and better data to the public on how Australia is faring in education, the economy, the environment, healthcare and other major social and economic indicators. Measuring and opening up access to public information puts governments in a vulnerable position; failures cannot be easily hidden. Yet the benefits are immense: data transparency means researchers can find better solutions to public problems; traditional and newer media sources can critically debate their government’s actions; individual citizens can better understand and take responsibility for their own problems; public policies can be more objectively evaluated; and governments remain answerable to the citizens they serve.
Question: What is one issue over which you’ve changed your mind in the past 10 years?
My attitude towards feminism has changed. Growing up, I never questioned women’s equality and resented any suggestion that women required special treatment. But two things shifted my views: community work and research alerted me to both statistical and real-life evidence of sex discrimination and domestic violence in particular, while living in Japan and China showed me that although Australia does not tolerate the overt sex discrimination present in these countries, it does tolerate more covert forms of discrimination in terms of childcare and work/life balance. My views on feminism are still shifting and it frustrates me when rhetoric doesn’t stand up to data or reality, but this is one issue over which I have changed my mind.
And here’s Joshua Gans’Â big idea.
There has been a trend towards encouraging, and even mandating, commercialisation of scientific knowledge as a pre-requisite for receiving government funding. This, however, can conflict with how future knowledge is created; something that requires maintaining the ability and incentives for current knowledge to be disclosed and used in an unfettered manner. To provide an appropriate balance, my idea is that grants should require open dissemination but with an option to â€˜opt out’ of such requirements by refunding monies should conflicting commercialisation properties present themselves. Giving scientists and commercial funders a menu of public support options and requirements will improve the mix and efficiency of scientific knowledge dissemination.