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AMSRS ACT CONFERENCE: Evidence, insights and beyond – 12 + reasons to attend

It’s an exciting time to be in the business of ‘evidence’ and ‘insights’ in Canberra right now. 

For example, we’re seeing an increase in Government’s willingness to use technologies to improve the lives of people living in Australia, and to enhance the work of Government more generally.  And there’s an increasing understanding that the generation of evidence and application of insights are required to do this effectively.

Earlier this month the Australian Government’s Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) convened their inaugural Digital Summit in Canberra.  I was struck by the enthusiasm of those working in Government, as well as their receptiveness to collaborating across sectors, domains and disciplines to achieve optimal outcomes.  The palpable excitement around adopting approaches such as ‘customer-centricity’ and undertaking ‘user research’ as standard was particularly encouraging.

Indeed, we have designed this year’s one-day AMSRS conference in Canberra to support and complement the work of Government.  For this reason, the program deliberately reaches beyond ‘traditional’ market and social research.

For those of us on the industry-side, you’ll be able to get a good sense of some of the key activities and priorities driving the work of Government, including:

  • The APS Review
  • Integrated data
  • Behavioural insights.

APS Review
The current independent review of the Australian Public Service (APS) led by David Thodey AO is only the third time an independent review has ever been conducted of the APS, following the Coombs Review in the 1970s and the Reid Review in the 1980s.  Being deliberately forward-focused, the Thodey Review will provide priorities for how best to position the APS for the future. 

  • Dr Gordon de Brouwer PSM is a member of the Review panel, as well as the recently appointed National President of the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA), and will provide a key note address on the APS Review in which he will explore the implications for those working in, and those working with, the APS.

Integrated data
Commencing in 2017, the Data Integration Partnership for Australia (DIPA) is a three-year $130.8 million investment to maximise the use and value of the Government’s data assets[1].  DIPA is a whole-of-government collaboration of over 20 Commonwealth agencies, with activities spanning physical infrastructure, integrating (or linking) data assets, and analytical hubs.  In a break-out session titled ‘Making the most of integrated data’ you will hear from:

  • Andrew Lalor who is the senior policy owner of DIPA within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet who will discuss DIPA and the opportunities that integrated data bring
  • Shane Crossman from Geoscience Australia will discuss the Location Index (Loc-I) work that provides a framework to seamlessly integrate data on people, business and the environment
  • Matthew James (Deputy CEO of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) will explore recent work to derive meaningful insights from integrated data sets in the health and welfare domains.

Behavioural insights
The Behavioural Economics Team of the Australian Government (BETA) was established in 2016 as the Australian Government’s central unit for applying behavioural insights to public policy[2].  In addition to completing around 30 projects with over 30 partners, the BETA team has also trained thousands of public servants in behavioural insights.  David Gruen, Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet recently gave a public policy lecture in which he discussed BETA’s work, and behavioural insights in general.[3]  In a break-out session titled ‘Getting value from behavioural insights’ you will hear from:

  • Harry Greenwell from the BETA team will provide an overview of the Australian Government’s work, including exploring examples and opportunities that this work presents
  • Prof Nick Biddle from the ANU, who is also a member of Australia’s National Data Advisory Council, will discuss examples of using survey experiments for the purposes of behavioural insights
  • Amy Arbery from the Department of the Environment and Energy will co-present with Prof Liam Smith from BehaviourWorks about a long-standing behavioural insights project they have undertaken, as well as discussing their innovative collaboration model that helps Government derive maximum benefits from the arrangement.

As well, the program offers separate break-out sessions that will be of value to those in industry, and those in Government alike:

  • ‘Influencing our society through research’
  • ‘Enhancing evaluation capability’
  • ‘Leveraging technology for better outcomes’
  • ‘Maximising our impact’

I’m also looking forward to hearing from the other four key note speakers, who will all join me at the end of the day for a panel discussion to explore and reflect on the key themes emerging from the conference:

  • Kelly Hand (Director Research, Australian Institute of Family Studies)
  • Nicholas Gruen (CEO, Lateral Economics)
  • Penny Dakin (CEO, Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth)
  • Brian Lee-Archer (Managing Director, Accenture, Government and Health practice).

I urge you to buy your tickets now (at:, and to encourage others with an interest in enhancing public value through evidence-informed decision-making to do the same.

I’d like to personally thank the conference sponsors, without whom the conference wouldn’t be possible:

  • Gold sponsors – Miles Morgan Australia, and Faster Horses Consulting
  • Silver Sponsors – the Social Research Centre, ORIMA Research, and McNair yellowSquares.

I look forward to seeing you on the day!

Adam Rowland, Chair AMSRS ACT Conference 2019

[1] See:
[2] See:
[3] See:

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