Public inquiry commissions are a core element of policy-making in the Nordic countries. Previous research suggests that these commissions function both as an extension of public administration, as a way of including interest groups in policy formulation, and as a channel for incorporating expert advice in decision-making. However, ongoing changes in conditions for governance are challenging the traditional role of inquiry commissions. Both expertization, the increasing reliance on experts in politics and public administration, and Europeanization, the processes by which national governance systems adapt to European-wide norms and EU-level bodies, have put existing policy advice mechanisms under pressure. These processes raise fundamental questions about the continued functioning and legitimacy of inquiry commissions: Is the investigation of policy problems and solutions increasingly left to a small elite of national and international experts? Are processes of expertization and Europeanization eroding the democratic and governance credentials of inquiry commissions?
EUREX has examined two main research questions centred on the Norwegian system of public inquiry commissions, known as NOUs (Norges offentlige utredninger):
1) How has the NOU system changed in response to processes of expertization and Europeanization?
2) What are the consequences of these changes for democracy and good governance?
These questions have been addressed within a multi-dimensional, multi-method research design that incorporates historical, comparative, European and normative dimensions. The project has analyzed the transformation of the NOU system over time in light of expertization and Europeanization, across policy areas. Close collaboration has been established with researchers in Denmark, Sweden and Finland, which has enabled comparisons between the Nordic countries.
Studies within the EUREX project have found that researchers take on more prominent roles in inquiry commissions as members and commission leaders. Previously, historically speaking, civil servants and representatives of interest groups tended to predominate the commissions. However, there are few signs that the public administration's control has weakened. For instance, the ministries and the political leadership exercise active control of the commissions via their secretariats. Furthermore, there is a tendency for the civil service and the political leadership to make political and strategic considerations when selecting the commissions, so-called "cherry picking" of commission members.
Furthermore, EUREX established that, over time, scientific research is being applied more often in inquiry commissions' work. There are, for example, more frequent citations of scientific work in today's inquiry reports compared to before. It must be added that the emphasis on research is greater in some policy areas, such as finance, environment and gender equality. EUREX also found that many NOU processes are fairly closed before and after the public consultations. In some policy areas, on the other hand, transparency and openness is experimented with. This can, for example, be through lay participation and the use of digital platforms. Finally, EUREX found that inquiry commissions' guidelines, mandates and reports have become Europeanized. The relationship with the EU and European integration has become important for many studies.
EUREX har bidratt med faglige innsikter innenfor flere forskningsfelt om eksperters rolle i politikken. Prosjektet har bidratt til å løfte kunnskap og ekspertise som tema innenfor diskusjoner om den nordiske styringsmodellen og offentlig politikk. Det har også bidratt til faglig fornying ved å knytte sammen normative diskusjoner og empiriske analyser av ekspertenes endrede rolle i politikkutforming. NOU-databasen som prosjektet har etablert vil kunne brukes av andre forskere og studenter i fremtiden.
Gjennom hyppig kontakt med beslutningstakere og populærvitenskapelig formidling, har EUREX bidratt til mer kunnskap og bevissthet innenfor embetsverk, politikk, interesseorganisasjoner og tenketanker om kanalene for kunnskapsbruk i politikken. Mer spesifikt har EUREX økt myndighetenes bevissthet om organisering og bruk av kunnskap i offentlige utredninger. For eksempel har innsikter fra EUREX påvirket Kommunal- og regionaldepartementets nye offisielle veileder for utvalgsarbeid i staten.
Public inquiry commissions constitute a core element of policy-making and governance in the Nordic countries. These commissions function both as an extension of public administration, as a way of including interest groups in policy formulation, and as a channel for incorporating expert advice in the decision-making process. Ongoing changes in the institutional conditions for policy-making, democracy and executive organization in Europe are however challenging the traditional role of inquiry commissions. In particular, expertization - the increasing reliance on experts and expertise in politics and public administration - and Europeanization - the processes in which national governance systems adapt to European-wide norms and EU bodies - are putting existing policy advice mechanisms under pressure and raise fundamental questions about the continued functioning and legitimacy of inquiry commissions as tools of democratic governance.
'Expertization of Public Inquiry Commissions: Democracy and Good Governance in a Europeanized Administrative Order' (EUREX) will study the Norwegian system of public inquiry commissions - NOUs (Norges Offentlige Utredninger). It will examine how the system has changed in response to expertization and Europeanization and its consequences for democracy and good governance. The project's multi-dimensional research design incorporates historical, comparative, European and normative dimensions.
EUREX brings together an international and interdisciplinary team of scholars with strong academic credentials. EUREX' explicit policy orientation is reflected in the establishment of a forum composed of senior civil servants, interest group representatives and academics with experience from inquiry commissions who will discuss findings and policy implications and contribute to broad user-oriented dissemination. EUREX will contribute actively to public debates about the role of experts in politics and the changing character of Norwegian governance.