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Is Proof Overrated?


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The concept of scientific proof is an important one in a rational society, but what does ‘proof’ really mean and how does it inform public policy in practice?

Policy-makers often cite research as proof on contested issues. But whether or not overwhelming evidence necessarily leads to evidence-based policy is another question. Is proof overrated? How does Australian society use research to inform its decisions?

The indomitable Sally Warhaft will host what promises to be a spirited debate on the subject. Our panellists – with a wealth of experience in both policy-making and research – will debate the idea, and importance, of proof in Australia today, each referring to their individual areas of expertise.

Join Professor Peter Doherty, Associate Professor Megan Munsie, Dr Ranjana Srivastava, Professor Kate Auty, and Dr Sara Bice for a discussion of the role of research in the choices we make about everything from energy technologies, social equity, environmental policies to our use of medical breakthroughs and new communication technologies.

In four minute bursts, each speaker will make a case for proof – and then counter their own arguments with an equally persuasive case against it. The debate will be followed by a panel discussion and Q&A before the audience decides the final result.


Presented in partnership with the University of Melbourne Research Institutes.


Sally Warhaft

Sally Warhaft is a Melbourne broadcaster, anthropologist and writer. She is the host of The Fifth Estate, the Wheeler Centre’s live series focusing on journalism, politics, media, and international relations, and The Leap Year, a Wheeler Centre podcast about Australians’ lives in the fog of ... Read more

Megan Munsie

Associate Professor Megan Munsie is a scientist who combines her extensive technical expertise in stem cell research with an interest and understanding of the complex ethical, societal and regulatory issues associated with the field. Megan has been involved in stem cell research in Australia since ... Read more

Peter Doherty

A graduate of the University of Queensland School of Veterinary Science, Peter Doherty shared the 1996 Nobel Medicine Prize for his immunology research and was the 1997 Australian of the Year. Since then, he has gone in to bat for evidence-based reality, relating to areas as diverse as childhood va... Read more

Kate Auty

Kate Auty is a Vice Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Melbourne.   She was the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability in Victoria from 2009 to 2014. During that appointment her office audited the environmental management systems of government departments and agencies and rep... Read more

Ranjana Srivastava

Dr Ranjana Srivastava is an oncologist, Fulbright scholar and award-winning author. She is a Walkley Award finalist for her columns on medicine and humanity in the Guardian. Her honours include the Human Rights Literature Prize and a medal of the Order of Australia for her contribution the field of ... Read more

Sara Bice

Sara Bice is a social scientist and director of research translation for the Melbourne School of Government. She’s spent much of her career working with communities, corporations and government affected by mining, oil and gas projects to reduce social impacts and improve policy outcomes. She is co... Read more


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188 Collins Street Melbourne Victoria 3000

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