Priority in Practice: A Research Network



The overall goal of the network is to bring together an international and interdisciplinary group to explore how abstract theories of equality can be used to inform actual public policy decision making (and at the same time to consider whether current theories are adequate for this purpose). There is an unusual opportunity at the present time, at least in some countries, for a broad range of academics to make an impact on public policy. Although it has long been commonplace for academic economists to be consulted by government, an increasing political interest in social justice means that governments are also turning to political philosophers and theorists. However many academics in this area work at such a level of abstraction that their theories have no clear application to policy. For example, Rawls' theory is intended to apply to the ‘basic structure’ of society, but this gives little guidance to those who have to make particular decisions concerning distribution of scare resources.

The ultimate aim of the project is to bridge the gap between theory and practice so that academics can make a sustained contribution to the formation and development of public policy. At the present time, however, much relevant academic theory is not in a form which touches the actual concerns of policy makers. The main motivating thought behind this workshop is to look closely at current developments in broadly egalitarian political and economic theory to explore ways in which they may become able to meet the needs of policy makers.

Accordingly the research network aims to explore three intersecting research questions:

1. What is the best formulation of a broadly egalitarian approach to justice?

2. How should decisions be taken in an egalitarian society with regard to health, education, disability, and so on?

3. How can our answers to the above questions shed light on each other?




First workshop: UCL, April 2003

Second workshop: UCL September 2003

Third workshop: Kennedy School, Harvard April 2004

Fourth workshop: UCL September 15th-16th, 2004

Fifth workshop: UCL April 7th-8th 2005

Sixth workshop:  UCL September 22nd-23rd, 2005

Seventh workshop: Harvard May 11th-13th, 2006

Eighth workshop: UCL September 7th-8th, 2006

Ninth workshop: Stanford September 28th-30th, 2006

Tenth workshop: UCL April 25th-26th, 2007

Eleventh workshop: UCL March 31st-April 1st 2008

Twelfth workshop: Harvard May 8-10th 2008

Thirteenth workshop: Dublin June19th-20th 2009

Fourteenth workshop: Windhoek, Namibia, August 24th-25th 2009