- Was previously a research fellow at the Saïd Business School (Oxford) and an Oxford Martin Fellow at the Institute of New Economic Thinking
- Project on policy priority inference is currently being promoted by international organisations, including the United Nations Development Programme
- Find out more about Omar's work in our latest impact story Supercharging sustainable development.
What are you working on at the moment?
I work on economic problems where policy interventions (like inheritance taxes, affirmative action policies, housing market regulations, etc.) could benefit from using computational tools for their design and evaluation. Sometimes, this involves simulating artificial economies, developing methods to quantify unobservable behaviour, or studying complex networks and big data.
At the Turing, I am developing an AI tool that will help governments to allocate public spending across hundreds of interdependent policy issues; something critical to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. I am also creating computational tools for designing housing market interventions, a highly debated topic in the UK due to its stark inequalities.
What do you hope is the impact of your work?
I hope that my research provides social scientists and policymakers with tools to analyse economic problems from angles that are inaccessible through conventional methods.
What’s the most surprising thing to come out of your research?
The impact that my project on policy priority inference has achieved. Although I started with modest expectations, I’m pleased to see my methodology is now in the process of being adopted by different governments. Whenever we present it to high-level government officials, they are very receptive and see the value of adopting it as part of their planning toolkit. In fact, the project is currently being promoted by international organisations, including the United Nations Development Programme. I would have never imagined this when I started working on this topic three years ago.
Describe your work in 3 words.
Economics, computing, policy
Your highlight at the Turing so far?
In the social sciences, it is not uncommon to ascribe to a set of ideas and methods and, then subsequently view every problem through those lenses. Interdisciplinary research often challenges these preconceptions, and this – unfortunately – can translate into an excessive scepticism that permeates into editorial boards, funding bodies and hiring committees. So getting support for this kind of work can be extremely difficult.
The Turing is one of the very few places in the world that encourages truly interdisciplinary research. It has been an ally of disruptive ideas from its research community and has put an impressive amount of effort in generating real-world impact with them. In my personal experience the Turing's public policy programme, as well as support teams such as communications, IT, research services and events planning, are always there to back me up.
What’s your secret talent?
I can fence
Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?