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Departmental news

Discover the latest news, awards, prizes and events within the Department of Economics at Otago.

Virtual Workshop during COVID-19 Lockdown

The Department of Economic hosted the 1st Virtual Workshop on Applied Microeconomics on Thursday, April 16.

Close to 30 participants attended the workshop, which started with a keynote speech by Professor Gail Pacheco (AUT and NZWRI). The keynote was followed by eight presentations by scholars from around the country, presenting recent work on a variety of questions.

The success of this Workshop proves that research and the exchange of ideas continues even in unusual circumstances such as the current lockdown.

The programme of the Workshop can be accessed here: 1st Virtual Workshop on Applied Microeconomics 

An online tool for valuing health 

Researchers from Economics, the Department of Preventive & Social Medicine and 1000minds software created an online tool for valuing people’s health-related quality of life (HRQoL) – specifically, for creating personal and social EQ-5D-5L value sets.

EQ-5D-5L value sets are used to calculate ‘Quality-Adjusted Life Years’ for use in economic evaluations – e.g. by PHARMAC – where the costs and benefits of various amounts of spending on pharmaceuticals and medical devices, etc. are compared. Another use of HRQoL information is for calculating ‘Patient-Reported Outcome Measures’ (PROMs) for the purpose of evaluating the effectiveness of treatments for individual patients.

Information about the tool and its use in New Zealand is available online (open access):

T Sullivan, P Hansen, F Ombler, S Derrett & N Devlin (2020), “A new tool for creating personal and social EQ-5D-5L value sets, including valuing ‘dead’” Social Science & Medicine 246, 112707.

Experience this tool yourself by completing the survey

1000minds website

Andrew Coleman's Blog

The Department’s Andrew Coleman has started writing a very interesting blog for TVHE – The Visible Hand in Economics. His first three posts are:
Why devotees of Greta need to give her up to save the planet
Cook, Elcano, and circumnavigation
Taxing capital incomes – are we doing it the right way?

Keep an eye open for more from Andrew, available at

Are Kiwis Effective Altruists

The effective altruism movement argues that people wanting to do the most good they can from charitable donations should donate to charities fighting poverty in poor countries overseas. For example, the Fred Hollows Foundation can restore someone’s sight in the Pacific Islands for only $25, whereas $25 won’t go far improving people’s health in wealthy countries like New Zealand. However, most New Zealanders prefer to donate to charities helping people in need in their own country. A research project involving Stephen Knowles and Murat Genç (Economics) and Trudy Sullivan (Preventive and Social Medicine) has analysed the reasons why it is that most New Zealanders prefer to donate to charities helping people in need in New Zealand. They found that most people care more about where a donation is spent, than how effective that donation will be. They also found that most people are not aware that money spent on health care will achieve more in a poor country than in New Zealand. This research has featured in an article in The Spinoff.

1000Minds helps WHO prioritise deadliest diseases

The World Health Organization (WHO) used 1000Minds decision-making software – co-invented by Paul Hansen of the Department of Economics – to create a prioritised list of 12 bacteria posing the greatest threats to human health because they are resistant to antibiotics. Millions of people could die if new and effective antibiotics are not developed. Released in 2017, the Priority Pathogens List is to help prioritise R&D into new antibiotics. 1000Minds was used to survey and aggregate the preferences of experts in infectious diseases from around the world. To see the prioritised list of diseases and for more information about the WHO project, click here.

Latest Discussion Paper

Read the latest Discussion Papers for the Department of Economics.