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University of Iowa News Release

March 9, 2005

UI Visitor To Speak On 'Megaprojects,' Making Social Science Matter March 22-24

A leading international scholar of urban planning will visit the University of Iowa March 22-24 as an Ida Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor. Bent Flyvbjerg, professor of planning at Aalborg University in Denmark, will give three free, public presentations during his UI visit.

Taken together, Flyvbjerg's three most recent books integrate political philosophy, civil engineering, urban planning and social theory into a coherent argument for a practically engaged form of social science, which he calls, "phronetic research." These recent works will be the basis of his three public lectures at the UI.

On Tuesday, March 22, Flyvbjerg will speak on "Megaprojects and Mega-Risks: The Reality of Policy and Planning for Multibillion-Dollar Infrastructure Investments," at 4 p.m. in Room 1505, Seamans Center. He will speak about the "megaprojects paradox" -- that is, the fact that more and bigger megaprojects are built despite their poor performance record in terms of costs and benefits. The presentation, based on the largest collection of data of its kind, from several hundred projects, not only explores the problems but also suggests practical solutions. Flyvbjerg is principal author of the book "Megaprojects and Risk: An Anatomy of Ambition" (Cambridge University Press, 2003) and adviser to government and business on questions of megaprojects.

Flyvbjerg will lead a Faculty Rhetoric Seminar for the Project on Rhetoric of Inquiry on Wednesday, March 23 from 7:30 to 9 p.m in room 302 Schaeffer Hall. His presentation "Pitfalls of Narrative and Discourse Analysis in Social Science: A Public Discussion" will focus on the increasingly popular social science methods of narrative and discourse analysis. Flyvbjerg himself is an avid user of these methods, for instance in his book "Rationality and Power: Democracy in Practice" (University of Chicago Press, 1998). His brief comments identifying a number of significant pitfalls with using these methods in practical research will serve as a point of departure for discussion.

Finally, Flyvbjerg will speak about making social science accessible and relevant to communities in "Making Social Science Matter: How Social Scientists Can Practically Engage With Serious Public Issues," on Thursday, March 24 at 4 p.m. in Room A, Iowa City Public Library. Instead of trying to emulate the natural sciences, Flyvbjerg argues that the social sciences must cut their own path to relevance. Based on his bestselling book "Making Social Science Matter: Why Social Inquiry Fails and How It Can Succeed Again" (Cambridge University Press, 2001), Flyvbjerg presents a new approach to social science anchored in the active engagement of social scientists in serious public issues.

Flyvbjerg has two decades of practical experience as a policy and planning adviser and consultant to more than 30 public and private organizations, including the EU Commission, the United Nations, national and local government, auditors general and private companies. His work covers both developed and developing nations. He has been adviser to the government of Denmark in formulating national policies for transportation, environment and research. He has received numerous honors and awards, including the Danish National Science Council Distinguished Research Scholarship (equivalent to the MacArthur Fellowship). In 2002, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark conferred upon him the Knighthood of the Order of the Dannebrog for his professional accomplishments.

Flyvbjerg's visit is supported by the UI Office of the Provost, the graduate program in urban and regional planning, departments of sociology, political science, civil and environmental engineering, the Public Policy Center and Project on Rhetoric of Inquiry.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact the graduate program in urban and regional planning in advance at 319-335-0033.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011,