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Holger Strassheim

In the past 20 years, evidence-based policy has become a common expectation of policy makers worldwide. There seems to be an international interest in assessing the effectiveness of public policies and in making well-informed decisions about policy programmes and instruments on the basis of expert knowledge, scientific research, evaluations and statistical modelling. The rise of evidence-based policy has, however, also been countered by critics, pointing to the risk that evidence might be used selectively, thus increasing the influence of policy elites and experts in the definition of social problems and solutions. The chapter gives an overview of recent debates on the role of evidence and ‘sound science’ in policy formulation, concerning both praise and criticism. Firstly, it can be shown that – partly due to the international impact of behavioural economics – evidence is increasingly incorporated into earlier stages of the policy process. In the European Union and beyond, experimental studies and randomized controlled trials are becoming more important, changing the very conception of both structure and timing of policy processes. Secondly, in order to get a systematic understanding of the policy-driven use of evidence especially in the early stages of the policy process, the mechanisms of evidence-based policy turning into ‘policy-based evidence’ are identified. The chapter ends by arguing for a more comparative approach towards evidence-based policy formulation, highlighting the institutional and cultural contexts of science-policy relations.

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Holger Strassheim

Confronted with complex dynamics such as global warming or food insecurities, decision-makers need to rely on the educated advice of specialists. At the same time, however, citizens question the role of expertise in society more than ever. Both tendencies can be observed: the expertization of democracy and the democratization of expertise. This chapter aims at critically exploring the relationships among science, policy and society. In taking up the problems and paradoxes of policy expertise, key questions are addressed: How is policy expertise generated, communicated and justified? How do cultural contexts shape and constrain the politics of policy expertise? How can we explain changes? To answer these questions the view of ‘political epistemology’ is adopted: Expertise is conceptualized as a nexus of authority attributions embedded in discursive and institutional cultures. It is also argued that in the post-national constellation these arrangements increasingly come under pressure. This opens up opportunities for a critical re-examination of public knowledge production.

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Holger Strassheim

This chapter discusses the perception of the policy process as a body of expertise by taking evidence-based policy making (EBPM) as the latest and most significant expression of this understanding. It is argued that EBPM shapes the policy process through time. At its core, EBPM is about the temporal design of the process in order to allow evidence and expertise to be integrated at every possible moment. The following questions are asked: Does EBPM have an effect on the policy process and, if this is the case, in which ways? How is the formulation of both policy problems and goals influenced when decision-making is based on facts? Do policy makers conceive of the past, present and future of their actions differently when informed by evidence? In answering these questions, the chapter brings together critical research on expertise and evidence with literature addressing the temporal features of policy making.

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Katharina T. Paul and Holger Straßheim

This chapter recounts the difficult emergence of consumer policy at the level of the EU and its expansion against the depoliticization at work throughout its development. Moving beyond institutionalist accounts, we offer a critical focus on continuities and changes in notions of ‘being a European consumer’ and how these are invoked in policy discourse. First, we propose that the quality of language and complex interaction in this multi-level setting, as well as the particular strategy of the European Commission to set aside consumer affairs – as a strategy of depoliticization – marked the gradual development of this policy area. Second, we argue that these ambiguities – and the ‘interpretive voids’ they produce – form the very conditions for the rise of behavioural approaches as a relatively recent regulatory paradigm in European consumer policy.

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Holger Strassheim and Weert Canzler

This chapter focuses on new and emerging forms of policy expertise. We argue that arrangements at the interface between science and policy have undergone significant changes over the past decades. Complex problems are forcing actors to search for alternative modes of interaction. Discursive coalitions and instrument constituencies emerge and solidify as they are grouping around new instruments of knowledge production. Both the fragmentation and the re-combination of authority lead to a diversified landscape of expertise. More recent research has identified multiple mechanisms fuelling this expansionary dynamic. By looking more closely at some of these forms of policy expertise in the areas of energy and mobility policy, we aim at tracing and reviewing these mechanisms. Research should get a better understanding of the possibilities of what we call ‘disruptive expertise’, that is, actors causing disturbances in firmly established structures of policy-making by identifying challenges where existing solutions are already taken for granted.

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Holger Straßheim and Silke Beck

Over the past decade behavioural public policy has spread inter- and transnationally. Despite an ever-growing amount of literature, however, there are only few systematic studies on the historical roots and developments of the behavioural change agenda, the varieties of behavioural public policy, the causes for its inter- and transnational spread as well as its normative implications and political consequences. The handbook contributes to addressing this gap by mapping the terrain and bringing together scholarship from a wide variety of conceptual and analytic perspectives. This introductory section gives an overview on the main topics, the individual chapters and on future research perspectives. We suggest tracing the multiple ways behavioural public policy is constituted, translated and legitimized across policy areas and jurisdictions. This, in turn, is a precondition for understanding its role in the transformation of public policy.

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Edited by Holger Straßheim and Silke Beck

Behavioural change has become a core issue of public policy. Behavioural instruments such as ‘nudging’ apply insights from behavioural economics and behavioural sciences, psychology and neurosciences across a broad range of policy areas. Behavioural insights teams and networks facilitate the global spread of behavioural public policies. Despite an ever-growing amount of literature, research has remained fragmented. This comprehensive Handbook unites interdisciplinary scholarship, with contributions critically assessing the state and direction of behavioural public policies, their normative implications and political consequences.