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Michael O’Hare

Emeritus Professor of Public Policy, and Professor of the Graduate School

Michael O’Hare


Trained at Harvard as an architect and engineer, Michael O’Hare came to Berkeley after teaching positions at MIT and Harvard’s Kennedy School, and “real-world” employment at Arthur D. Little, Inc., Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. His research history has included periods of attention to biofuels and global warming policy, environmental policy generally including the “NIMBY problem” and facility siting, arts and cultural policy, public management, and higher education pedagogy. O’Hare was the principal investigator for Berkeley’s contract research for the California Air Resources Board for implementation of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, and published most recently on fuel policies for global warming reduction, especially biofuels, their “indirect land use change” and food price effects, and the importance of time and uncertainty in relating fuel carbon intensity to warming policy.

He has been editor of the Curriculum and Case Notes section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, is currently an associate editor of the Journal of Public Affairs Education, and has published frequently on quality assurance and best practices in professional teaching. Since coming to Cal he has done applied research for government and nonprofit clients on diverse topics including funding of the state Fish and Game Department, surface mining reclamation, nuclear waste disposal and high-speed rail siting, and revitalizing county fairs. He is a regular faculty member of the school’s mid-career executive programs, and has had visiting positions at Università Bocconi, the National University of Singapore, and Université Paul Cézanne (Aix-Marseille).

He is the GSPP chair of the school’s undergraduate minor and usually teaches one of the two semester offerings of the undergraduate introduction to policy analysis.  His other courses cycle among arts and cultural policy, a program and policy design studio, a second-year elective for masters students at GSPP and ERG on optimization and risk models, and an APA section.


Areas of Expertise

  • Arts Policy
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Environment
  • Public Management

Last updated on 02/04/2019

Working Papers

  • Policy Should Incorporate the Cost of Error and Uncertainty in Estimates of Fuel Carbon Intensity

    Co-authors: Richard J. Plevin, Derek Lemoine

    GSPP Working Paper: GSPP10-007 (September 2010)

    Implementation of many policies intended to reduce fuels’ contribution to global warming require an estimate of the global warming intensity (GWI) of various fuels. Determining the climate effect of a direct substitution of fuels is not the same as determining the official value of each fuel’s GWI used to implement the policy. Choosing the second, which depends in part on estimates of the first and their intrinsic uncertainty, is a decision that should reflect the shape of the probability distribution of the first and of the cost of error (the difference between the chosen value and the ‘real’ value. Decision analysis helps clarify the difference between these GWI’s, how they relate to each other, and how standard engineering practice like a safety factor applies to the regulator’s decision.

    Download a PDF (202KB)

  • Arts Policy Research for the Next Twenty-Five Years: A Trajectory after Patrons Despite Themselves

    GSPP Working Paper: GSPP08-006 (August 2008)

    This paper was commissioned for a plenary session at the Association for Cultural Economics International 2008 Research Conference recognizing the 25th anniversary of the publication of Patrons Despite Themselves: Taxpayers and Arts Policy.  It proposes five “big questions” to which arts policy research should attend if carried on in the spirit that animated the book, namely that arts policy should seek to generate “more, better, engagement by more people with better art.”  The five issues are:

    1. Waste of cultural resources represented by works that are not heard or seen, such as unperformed music and works in reserve collections of museums.
    2. Design and implementation of a workable business model for works in digital form (recordings, video, text, etc.).
    3. Increasing the value created by amateur participation (in contrast to passive consumption of art provided by professionals).
    4. Withdrawal of elites, especially economic elites, from their historic participation in arts governance and support.
    5. Fragmentation of collective patrimony as people have fewer and fewer works commonly experienced and art serves niche markets.

  • Capitalizing Art Museum Collections: Awkward for Museums But Good for Art and for Society

    GSPP Working Paper: GSPP08-005 (November 2005)

    Though standard accounting practice requires that all assets of a firm be manifest in accounts, an exception to this principle allows museums to omit their entire collections from their balance sheets. As the collection of any top-rank museum has more value than the rest of a typical museum's assets put together, this practice greatly obstructs good institutional decisionmaking. The practice is justified by an assertion common in the museum community that the collection is not a financial asset, neither available for sale nor obligation as a loan security, and by a variety of other assertions regarding the cost of assessing it. These assertions are shown to be choices with no fundamental support beyond museum management comfort, or to be erroneous. 

    The allocation of artistic patrimony across museums generates a return on investment below 1%, indicating that these assets are not being used efficiently to create the benefits museums (whether non-profit or public) are supposed to provide: no other organization would be allowed to control assets with such a low rate of return. Capitalizing collections is practical and would lead to a variety of beneficial changes in museum practice, on the criterion of inducing “more, better, engagement with more art by more people.”

    Download a PDF (367KB)

Quality Assurance Program for Higher Education Pedagogy

Quality Assurance Program for Higher Education Pedagogy

Michael O'Hare

Date: April 24, 2017 Duration: 53 minutes



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