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FRIPRO-Fri prosjektstøtte

The influence of experts on public policy

Alternative title: Eksperters innflytelse på offentlig politikk

Awarded: NOK 12.0 mill.

Across the world, politicians call on experts for advice both during major crises and in everyday policy-making. Political leaders' reliance on scientific advisors during the coronavirus pandemic is only the latest example. But to what extent do experts actually influence public policies? Curiously, this question is often neglected in existing research. Yet, how much influence experts have matters for our democracies. On the one hand, ignoring expert advice can hurt the quality of public policies and citizens' trust in government. On the other hand, experts also make mistakes, and relying too much on experts can mean listening less to citizens and other legitimate interests in a democratic society. The project 'INFLUEX: Influence of experts on public policy’ tackles the question of expert influence in policy-making head-on. The project aims to define, measure and explain the policy influence of different expert actors, such as expert advisory bodies and national and international expert bureaucracies. To measure expert influence, the project draws on unique data on Norwegian policy-making processes and uses creative new methods such as citation analysis and ‘plagiarism’ analysis. It also examines the normative question of how much influence experts ought to have in a democracy.

Across the world, politicians are calling on experts for advice on how to respond to the coronavirus crisis. This is only the latest example of the substantial presence of experts in contemporary decision-making. Yet, to what extent do experts actually influence public policies? Curiously, this question has often been neglected in both empirical and normative scholarship on expertise and politics. To examine this question, INFLUEX provides a innovative study of experts' influence on public policy. The project makes four novel contributions to research. (1) It reframes debates about expertise and policy-making around the notion of 'expert influence', i.e. the ability of an expert actor to shape a policy decision in line with its preferences, and develops a theoretical argument about the conditions for the influence of different expert actors. (2) It develops an ambitious methodological program for studying expert influence, which triangulates traditional methodological strategies with innovative techniques. (3) It makes an empirical contribution by drawing on unique data to trace experts' influence on public policy in Norway, a high-achieving polity generally known for its knowledge-based policy-making, but where the actual role of different expert actors is under-researched. (4) It proposes a novel way to assess the normative consequences of expert involvement in policy-making that is philosophically grounded yet systematically informed by empirical research. Beyond its academic impact, INFLUEX speaks directly to urgent societal debates about what role experts should play in democratic decision-making. At a time when some see expert rule as a panacea for the world’s problems while others reject the advice of experts, INFLUEX will produce novel insights about how to reconcile democratic and knowledge-based governance.

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FRIPRO-Fri prosjektstøtte

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