Cancelled - The Bristol Business School - Inaugural Address - Professor Felix Ritchie

This event has now passed.

Date: 03 May 2017
Venue: Room 2X242, Business & Law School Building, Frenchay Campus, UWE, Bristol
Time: 17:30 - 19:30

Cancelled - we regret to inform you that this event has been cancelled.

The Bristol Business School proudly invites you to attend the Inaugural Lecture of Professor Felix Ritchie at UWE, Bristol, Frenchay Campus, Wednesday 3rd May from 17.30 - 19.30.

The political economy of government decision-making


Governments are popularly seen as bureaucratic and risk-averse, resistant to change and innovation. It is debatable that this is well-founded: government bodies differ from private sectors in their structures, objectives and functions, and comparisons may not be fair. Moreover, the private sector's preference for risk is not necessarily socially optimal, as the financial crisis has helpfully demonstrated.

We review ideas from public administration, behavioural psychology and economics to consider the theoretical and empirical basis for the characterisation of 'government' as a slow-moving beast, cautious and inflexible. We propose there is some truth in the claim that the public sector makes decisions differently, if not necessarily better or worse. A key influence on decision-making is the incentive structure arising from public expectations of government organisations. These can help to explain why decision-making is more likely to be crisis-driven in the public sector than in the private sector.

We illustrate the topic by considering the way public sector bodies manage access to their vast data resources. The potential benefit to society from research and joined-up administration is immense, but access decisions can be driven less by the public good than by private concerns about responsibility. However, there are growing areas of good practice, which demonstrate the importance of attitude and incentives in public-sector decision-making.


Felix Ritchie joined UWE in June 2012 after working in a range of posts in the public and private sector in the UK and abroad, including programmer, electricity analyst, government economist, IT manager, operations manager, and consultant. Immediately prior to UWE he spent nine years as an Economic Adviser at the UK Office for National Statistics where he developed models of data access and security which have been adopted in governments and academic research organisations across the world. In 2017 he was appointed head of the newly-formed Bristol Centre for Economics and Finance at UWE.

His main research specialisms are:

  • data access and management, security and privacy, ethics and governance, and training in confidential data use
  • earnings, particularly low pay and minimum wages.

However, Felix's interests are diverse and his research is multidisciplinary, involving lawyers, psychologists, criminologists, sociologists, marketing specialists, and HRM experts. His willingness to work outside traditional economics is fired by inherent curiosity, sociability and a desire for co-authors to do the hard work. The diversity of his interest is shown by the range of projects he is currently working on: charity funding, car accidents, 'third places', decision-making in large organisations, measurement in government data, trade mark forecasting...

Much of Felix's time is spent in consulting. Since 2012, he has led and won competitive tenders for work from organisations as diverse as the ESRC, Eurostat, the Australian and Greek governments, and the Wellcome Trust. He regularly works with private-sector consultants on joint projects. He has also acted as an Expert Witness in the civil courts. He aims to ensure that research is relevant, policy-oriented and accessible to non-specialists.

Cost: Free
Contact: Bronwen Hex
Telephone: +44 (0)117 32 82746

Back to top