Professor of Planning, Aalborg University, Denmark
“Follies of Infrastructure: Why the Worst Projects Get Built, and How to Avoid It”
The lecture uncovers an inverted Darwinism – the “survival of the un-fittest” – at the heart of infrastructure development. It is not the best projects that get built, but those that look best on paper. And the projects that look best on paper are often those with highly inflated benefit-cost ratios. However, the more inflated a benefit- cost ratio is, the bigger the disaster that the sponsoring community will face, if disaster is defined as cost overruns and benefit shortfalls. This happened with LA’s subway, Denver’s International Airport, the Channel tunnel, and countless other projects. The problem is deep-seated in policy and planning for major infrastructure. The lecture shows a way out.
Bent Flyvbjerg is Professor of Planning at the Department of Development and Planning at Aalborg University, Denmark. He is Doctor of Technology and Engineering (Dr.Techn.) and Doctor of Science (Dr. Scient.) from Aalborg University and holds the Ph.D. in Urban Geography and Planning from Aarhus University, Denmark. He was twice a Visiting Fulbright Scholar to the USA, where he did research at the University of California at Los Angeles and Berkeley and at Harvard University. He has been a Visiting Fellow with the European University Institute in Florence. Bent Flyvbjerg holds a concurrent position as Chair in Infrastructure Policy and Planning at Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands.
Bent Flyvbjerg’s most recent books in English are Megaprojects and Risk: An Anatomy of Ambition (Cambridge University Press, 2003), Making Social Science Matter (Cambridge University Press, 2001), and Rationality and Power: Democracy in Practice (The University of Chicago Press, 1998). His books and articles have been translated into 18 languages. His main research interest is urban policy and planning. He is currently conducting research on megaprojects, phronetic planning research, and the relationship between truth and lying in policy and planning. Flyvbjerg’s research has been covered by Science, The Economist, The New York Times, the BBC, and other media.
Bent Flyvbjerg has two decades of practical experience from working as a policy and planning adviser to more than 40 public and private organizations, including the EU Commission, the United Nations, national and local government, auditors general, banks, 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, infrastructure, environment, and science.
Bent Flyvbjerg is founding chairman of the Geography Program at Aalborg University, established in 2001. He is co-founder of the university’s Program in Planning and Environment and founding director of the university’s Research Program on Megaprojects. 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 Bent Flyvbjerg the Knighthood of the Order of the Dannebrog for his professional accomplishments.