Michael Spackman

Visiting Senior Fellow

Michael also undertakes economic consultancy work for NERA Economic Consulting and other bodies, including the OECD and the World Bank, and often with academic team members. This has included recent work for the Department of Transport and the Health and Safety Executive on the valuation of fatality and injury risks, for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on the monetisation of climate change adaptation costs, and for the government Social Impacts Task Force on the handling of non-monetisable factors alongside cost benefit analysis.


Michael worked for ten years as a physicist/engineer in the nuclear industry before joining the civil service as a principal scientific officer. He is still a Chartered Physicist. From 1984 to 1995, he headed the public expenditure economics group in HM Treasury, with a secondment from 1991 to 1993 as Chief Economist at the Department of Transport. Michael was, for many years, until 2010, a member of an NAO expert panel on Regulatory Reform. He now maintains regular contact with economists in the Treasury and other UK government departments, mainly on issues of appraisal methodology. He is a practitioner member of the review group of the ESRC network for integrated behavioural studies.

Michael has an MA in Physics from Cambridge University and an MSc in Economics from Queen Mary, University of London.

Research interests

  • The history, international practice and continuing controversies surrounding social discounting;
  • Relationships between the worlds of decision analysis and economics, and how their application, and mutual comprehension of their respective strengths and limitations, might be improved, at least within government.


Working paper  26 April, 2018

Social discounting: social opportunity cost, social time preference and risk

This paper addresses enduring misunderstandings about ‘social opportunity cost’ versus ‘social time preference’ discounting. read more »


Michael Spackman
Working paper  14 March, 2016

Appropriate time discounting in the public sector

A substantial literature of social discounting has now extended over more than 50 years, but practical approaches in developed economies and international bodies continue to vary widely. This is sometimes … read more »


Working paper  1 November, 2011

Government discounting controversies: the valuation of social time preference

The conceptual basis and numerical quantification of the time discount rate (or rates) to use for the comparison of policies or projects from a national perspective … read more »

Working paper  1 November, 2011

Government discounting controversies: changing prices, opportunity costs and systematic risk

The conceptual basis and numerical quantification of the time discount rate (or rates) to use for public sector analysis have been debated for over half a … read more »

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Policy publications  6 March, 2018

Social Discount Rates for Cost -Benefit Analysis: A Report for HM Treasury

A summary report from two workshops on recent advances in social discounting practice and theory. This paper was prepared as a summary of a workshop held in April 2016 on … read more »


Policy publications  1 May, 2013

Handling non-monetised factors in project, programme and policy appraisal

Since the 1980s there has been an increasing emphasis in UK government policy, programme and project appraisal on the monetisation of factors for which there is no appropriate … read more »

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