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May 01, 2014

Expert for 15 minutes?

We live in an interconnected virtual world of knowledge where the internet is the cradle of information. Google, Wikipedia and social media channels provide us with finger-tip facts and allow us to join the conversation on any topic with an informed point of view—even if only for a few minutes. We no longer have to take things on trust but can form our own point of view with few clicks.

The influence of a point of view is impressive; it can set off tsunamis of public opinion with the power to change the world. The shift from "deference" to "reference" as society’s influence model is equally reflected in the global political makeup whereby the past two decades have witnessed the evolution of a participative political economy in mature capitalist democracies, such as those of northern Europe and North America.

The question is—what next? Perhaps the answer is a renaissance of empirical knowledge as the touchstone of truth—opinion and policy founded on in-depth understanding of cause and effect.

It’s true that economists are pretty nimble on their feet when new evidence comes in, including me and my colleagues at IZA. We may not all agree, and our findings may change over time, but our analysis is consistently based on the best empirical scientific evidence provided by our profession.

We understand that policy formulation is not an exact science and that in any democratic society winning votes will always play a part. But through this website we want to provide policymakers with the best tools to make their decisions based on robust, evidence-based research. At the same time we want to give easy and free public access to the detailed information that sits behind policy decisions.

We don’t claim to be alone in promoting an evidence-based approach to policy making. However, IZA World of Labor broadens access to expertise in the area of labor economics. And now this website will allow more policymakers and those who influence them to embrace the paradox of evidence-based policy making in a world in which it’s possible for each of us to be an expert for 15 minutes.

© Klaus F. Zimmermann

Klaus F. Zimmermann is the Editor-in-Chief of the IZA World of Labor. View his IZA World of Labor article on circular migration here.

Please note:
We recognize that IZA World of Labor articles may prompt discussion and possibly controversy. Opinion pieces, such as the one above, capture ideas and debates concisely, and anchor them with real-world examples. Opinions stated here do not necessarily reflect those of the IZA.