Social and economic forecaster Phil Ruthven knows the value of giving free rein to an inquiring mind.
It was almost 50 years ago, during a Rotary-sponsored study tour to the US, that the chemical engineering graduate was given a privileged peek at the US military's massive big-data capacity, in one of its underground war-rooms.
From this experience grew the idea of an information-intensive company to provide economic forecasting and strategic information services, and in 1971, Phil founded IBISWorld.
Now, IBISWorld, a global leader in business intelligence, is eager to support young researchers to break new ground.
"My company has been quite successful around the world and some years back we decided to give a percentage of our profits to charity each year," said Phil, adding that the company's focus is on disadvantaged youth and advanced education.
IBISWorld's 2015 donation to ANU will support research and a PhD scholarship to develop a statistical model-based integrative index of socio-economic health.
PhD supervisor Dr Grace Chiu, who will co-supervise the incoming IBISWorld Scholar with Dr Anton Westveld, said the project would look through an economic lens to better understand the wellbeing of society.
"Essentially, we are considering the wellbeing of society from an economic point of view. By using a rigorously quantifiable framework, like the economy, we can develop a scientific way to interpret what makes a society healthy," said Grace, who is a senior lecturer at the ANU Research School of Finance, Actuarial Studies and Statistics.
It's a model that piqued the interest of IBISWorld because the company had considered the issue from a similar perspective some years ago when it measured overall economic health, and by inference societal wellbeing.
But Phil emphasised that the donation comes with no-strings attached.
"We have left it fairly open for the PhD student to see where they want to go and how they want to get there," said Phil, who sits on the advisory board of the ANU College of Business and Economics.
"We just felt like it would be a useful thing for Australia, if ANU thought so too, to be able to have an economic measure of how well it's going.
"It's important to support young researchers and in doing so we put Australia in a better position to face the challenges of tomorrow."