Bent Flyvbjerg
Bent Flyvbjerg is the first Chair and BT Professor of Major Programme Management at Oxford University's Saïd Business School
Saïd Business School
Saïd Business School is the business school of the University of Oxford in England, located on the north side of Frideswide Square on the former site of Oxford Rewley Road railway station. It is the University's centre of learning for graduate and undergraduate students in business, management...

 and is Founding Director of the University's BT Centre for Major Programme Management. He was previously Professor of Planning at Aalborg University, Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 and Chair of Infrastructure Policy and Planning at Delft University of Technology
Delft University of Technology
Delft University of Technology , also known as TU Delft, is the largest and oldest Dutch public technical university, located in Delft, Netherlands...

, The Netherlands. Flyvbjerg received his Ph.D. in economic geography from Aarhus University, Denmark. He has written extensively about megaprojects, decision making
Decision making
Decision making can be regarded as the mental processes resulting in the selection of a course of action among several alternative scenarios. Every decision making process produces a final choice. The output can be an action or an opinion of choice.- Overview :Human performance in decision terms...

, city management, and philosophy of social science
Philosophy of social science
The philosophy of social science is the study of the logic and method of the social sciences, such as sociology, anthropology and political science...



Bent Flyvbjerg developed the research methodology called phronetic social science
Phronetic social science
Phronetic social science is an approach to the study of social – including political and economic – phenomena based on a contemporary interpretation of the Aristotelian concept phronesis, variously translated as practical judgment, common sense, or prudence. Phronesis is the intellectual virtue...

 and has employed the methodology in studies of city management and of megaprojects.

In 2005, Flyvbjerg identified two main causes of misinformation in policy and management: strategic misrepresentation
Strategic misrepresentation
"Strategic misrepresentation is the planned, systematic distortion or misstatement of fact—lying—in response to incentives in the budget process...

Lying may refer to:* Lie — a deliberate untruth.* Lying a 2011 book by neuroscientist Sam Harris* Lying — a horizontal position* Lying — a 2006 film* Lying — a song by Australian band, Amy Meredith...

) and optimism bias
Optimism bias
Optimism bias is the demonstrated systematic tendency for people to be overly optimistic about the outcome of planned actions. This includes over-estimating the likelihood of positive events and under-estimating the likelihood of negative events. Along with the illusion of control and illusory...

 (appraisal optimism). Flyvbjerg and his associates have developed methods to curb misinformation focused on improved accountability
Accountability is a concept in ethics and governance with several meanings. It is often used synonymously with such concepts as responsibility, answerability, blameworthiness, liability, and other terms associated with the expectation of account-giving...

 and reference class forecasting
Reference class forecasting
Reference class forecasting is the method of predicting the future, through looking at similar past situations and their outcomes.Reference class forcasting predicts the outcome of a planned action based on actual outcomes in a reference class of similar actions to that being forecast. The theories...

. The methods are being used in practice in policy and planning. Bent Flyvbjerg has lent his name to the so-called "Flyvbjerg Debate," which is a debate over the role of social science in society in response to his book Making Social Science Matter.

Finally, Flyvbjerg has identified a number of misunderstandings about case study research and devised ways of correcting these misunderstandings.

Bent Flyvbjerg was knight
A knight was a member of a class of lower nobility in the High Middle Ages.By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior....

ed in the Order of the Dannebrog
Order of the Dannebrog
The Order of the Dannebrog is an Order of Denmark, instituted in 1671 by Christian V. It resulted from a move in 1660 to break the absolutism of the nobility. The Order was only to comprise 50 noble Knights in one class plus the Master of the Order, i.e. the Danish monarch, and his sons...

 in 2002.

Making Social Science Matter

The book describes phronetic social science
Phronetic social science
Phronetic social science is an approach to the study of social – including political and economic – phenomena based on a contemporary interpretation of the Aristotelian concept phronesis, variously translated as practical judgment, common sense, or prudence. Phronesis is the intellectual virtue...

. First, the book argues that the social sciences have failed as science. Second, it develops the argument that in order to matter again the social sciences must model themselves after phronesis
Phronēsis is an Ancient Greek word for wisdom or intelligence which is a common topic of discussion in philosophy. In Aristotelian Ethics, for example in the Nicomachean Ethics it is distinguished from other words for wisdom as the virtue of practical thought, and is usually translated "practical...

 (as opposed to episteme
Episteme, as distinguished from techne, is etymologically derived from the Greek word ἐπιστήμη for knowledge or science, which comes from the verb ἐπίσταμαι, "to know".- The Concept of an "Episteme" in Michel Foucault :...

, which is at the core of natural science). Finally, the book develops methodological guidelines and shows practical examples of how phronetic social science may be employed in real research.

The books makes a double call for, first, social sciences that reject the natural science model as an ideal that may be achieved in social science and, second, social sciences that are more relevant to people outside social science, e.g., ordinary citizens and policy makers. Flyvbjerg argues that to gain relevance, social science must inform practical reason, and that this is best done by a focus on values and power. In terms of the philosophy and history of science, Flyvbjerg takes his cue from Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 rather than from Socrates
Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

 and Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...


Flyvbjerg's book Rationality and Power: Democracy in Practice is an example of the methodology and theory developed in Making Social Science Matter employed in practice.


In a 2004 article, Stanford political science professor David Laitin critiqued Making Social Science Matter and Flyvbjerg's perspective. Flyvbjerg countered by arguing that Laitin's critique was ill-founded and unethical, and was joined by Sanford Schram.

A book about the significance of Flyvbjerg's work and the debate with Laitin, Making Political Science Matter: Debating Knowledge, Research, and Method, edited by Schram and Brian Caterino, was published in 2006. Caterino and Schram wrote in the book's introduction that "The special thing about Flyvbjerg's challenge to social science is the way it bridges theory and practice in a way that unites philosophical and empirical subdivisions in the social sciences." Caterino and Schram argue that Flyvbjerg thereby simultaneously provides a strong theoretical foundation for his vision of socially and politically relevant social sciences and illuminates his position with concrete examples from his own empirical research. Flyvbjerg in this manner transgresses disciplinary boundaries to make a more compelling call for a social science that people could use to make a difference in their lives, according to Caterino and Schram.

External links

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