28 SES 16 A, Tracing the Formation and Utilization of Policy Knowledge and Research in Nordic Education Policy
The shift to knowledge-based regulation and, as a corollary, “the rise of expertocracy” has been documented by many scholars. In comparison, what is studied less is what the government actually uses in terms of policy advice. This study attempts to contribute to the understanding of this gap by examining what the ministries of education and science have actually adopted, learned, or borrowed from their own expert commissions. In doing so, we shed light on the political translation process, the transfer from the scientific level (advisory body) to the political level (decision-making authority). This comparative study on political translation draws on data from Norway and Sweden where the use of policy advice in the form of expert commissions is institutionalized. We identified source documents consisting of texts produced either by the ministries of education and science (white papers) or their appointed commissions (green papers) and examined their bibliographic references. Conducting a bibliometric network analysis has enabled the reference patterns to be visualized, revealing the “upward translation process” manifested in the white papers. Our analysis shows that the assumption that governments are passive recipients of scientific advice provided by the appointed commissions prior to taking or legitimizing political decisions is outdated. In both countries, governments seem to use their commissions primarily to draw on their highly specialized knowledge on particular topics while for justifying broader political decisions, they seem to rely more explicitly on their own knowledge production. In general, the ministries of education and science use only a fraction of the expert knowledge produced by the commissions, indicating an institutionalized “over-production of evidence” (Lubienski, 2019). Although the idea of evidence-based policymaking has gained a lot of attention among scholars and practitioners, the actual use of scientific knowledge by politicians is somewhat underexplored. Against this background, this study contributes to existing scholarship in public policy by reflecting the political translation of scientific knowledge on the larger phenomenon of network governance (Ball & Junemann, 2012) and polycentric governance (Cairney et al., 2019).
Ball, S. J. & Junemann, C. (2012). Networks, new governance and education. Bristol: University of Bristol and Policy Press. Cairney, P., Heikkila, T. & Wood, M. (2019). Making policy in a complex world. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Lubienski, C. (2019). Advocacy networks and market models for education. In M. Parreira Do Amaral, G. Steiner-Khamsi, & C. Thompson (Eds.), Researching the global education industry: Commodification, the market, and business involvement (pp. 69-86). Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.
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