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Communicating Economic Concepts and Research in a Challenging Environment


  • John Davis


This address explores the communication challenges facing the economics profession and agri‐food and rural economists in particular against a background of reputational damage to the profession and an apparent loss of trust in experts. It argues that a common thread linking many of the challenges is the need for more effective models of communication so that our economic concepts, ideas and research findings can be more timely, better understood and, most importantly, have greater impact. Five important challenges are examined: loss of trust in experts; emotions and decision making; the role of the media; the roles of agri‐food and rural economists; and competition from other disciplines and interests. A good practice communications framework is then proposed embodying ten important communication principles: understanding the target audience; understanding the political context of decision makers; generating a robust evidence base; building reputation and credibility; need for cross disciplinary working; consulting with stakeholder groups; getting the timing right; producing high quality presentations; making use of social media; and being prepared for challenges. Four stereotypical categories of communication incorporating different standards of rigour and relevance are identified: Ivory tower; Gold Standard; Populist; and Quicksand. Responses by the Agricultural Economics Society and the European Association of Agricultural Economists to the need for more accessible communications via the development of the innovative outreach journal EuroChoices are outlined.

Suggested Citation

  • John Davis, 2018. "Communicating Economic Concepts and Research in a Challenging Environment," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 69(3), pages 591-605, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jageco:v:69:y:2018:i:3:p:591-605
    DOI: 10.1111/1477-9552.12300

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. James T. Bonnen & David B. Schweikhardt, 1998. "Getting from Economic Analysis to Policy Advice," Review of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 20(2), pages 584-600.
    2. John Gibson & Ethan Burton-McKenzie, 2017. "Are returns to research quality lower in agricultural economics than in economics?," Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 61(3), pages 498-514, July.
    3. Wilfrid Legg, 2003. "Presidential Address Agricultural Subsidies: Measurement and Use in Policy Evaluation," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(2), pages 175-201.
    4. Pannell, David J., 2004. "Effectively communicating economics to policy makers," Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 48(3), pages 1-21.
    5. W. Bruce Traill, 2012. "Economic Perspectives on Nutrition Policy Evaluation," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(3), pages 505-527, September.
    6. Rivlin, Alice M, 1987. "Economics and the Political Process," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(1), pages 1-10, March.
    7. Lars Brink, 2013. "Making Agricultural Economics Research Relevant for Policy Advice," Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics/Revue canadienne d'agroeconomie, Canadian Agricultural Economics Society/Societe canadienne d'agroeconomie, vol. 61(1), pages 15-36, March.
    8. Berkeley Hill, 2017. "The United Kingdom's Domestic Policy for Agriculture after Brexit," EuroChoices, The Agricultural Economics Society, vol. 16(2), pages 18-23, August.
    9. Christine Polek, 2010. "Effective Communication in Economics: Lessons from Peter Boettke," Journal of Private Enterprise, The Association of Private Enterprise Education, vol. 26(Fall 2010), pages 39-46.
    10. Ronald Bosman & Frans van Winden, 2002. "Emotional Hazard in a Power-to-take Experiment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(476), pages 147-169, January.
    11. Alan Swinbank, 2017. "Brexit, Trade Agreements and CAP Reform," EuroChoices, The Agricultural Economics Society, vol. 16(2), pages 4-9, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. John Davis, 2020. "EU‐UK Brexit Negotiations, Covid‐19 and Key Roles for Economists," EuroChoices, The Agricultural Economics Society, vol. 19(1), pages 3-3, April.
    2. John Davis, 2020. "The Covid‐19 Pandemic Highlights Key Roles for Economists," EuroChoices, The Agricultural Economics Society, vol. 19(3), pages 3-3, December.
    3. John Davis, 2019. "Brexit and the Challenges in Communicating Economics," EuroChoices, The Agricultural Economics Society, vol. 18(2), pages 3-3, August.

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