Article: a PhD thesis.
Playing Second Fiddle: Expert Advice and Decision-Making in Switzerland
Université de Lausanne, Faculté des sciences sociales et politiques
Faculté des sciences sociales et politiques (SSP) Université de Lausanne UNIL - Dorigny Anthropole - bureau 2125 CH-1015 Lausanne SUISSE
Number of pages
This thesis concerns the role of scientific expertise in the decision-making process at the Swiss federal level of government. It aims to understand how institutional and issue-specific factors influence three things: the distribution of access to scientific expertise, its valuation by participants in policy for- mulation, and the consequence(s) its mobilization has on policy politics and design. The theoretical framework developed builds on the assumption that scientific expertise is a strategic resource. In order to effectively mobilize this resource, actors require financial and organizational resources, as well as the conviction that it can advance their instrumental interests within a particular action situation. Institutions of the political system allocate these financial and organizational resources, influence the supply of scientific expertise, and help shape the venue of its deployment. Issue structures, in turn, condition both interaction configurations and the way in which these are anticipated by actors. This affects the perceived utility of expertise mobilization, mediating its consequences. The findings of this study show that the ability to access and control scientific expertise is strongly concentrated in the hands of the federal administration. Civil society actors have weak capacities to mobilize it, and the autonomy of institutionalized advisory bodies is limited. Moreover, the production of scientific expertise is undergoing a process of professionalization which strengthens the position of the federal administration as the (main) mandating agent. Despite increased political polarization and less inclu- sive decision-making, scientific expertise remains anchored in the policy subsystem, rather than being used to legitimate policy through appeals to the wider population. Finally, the structure of a policy problem matters both for expertise mobilization and for the latter's impact on the policy process, be- cause it conditions conflict structures and their anticipation. Structured problems result in a greater overlap between the principal of expertise mobilization and its intended audience, thereby increasing the chance that expertise shapes policy design. Conversely, less structured problems, especially those that involve conflicts about values and goals, reduce the impact of expertise.
scientific advice, Swiss politics, problem governance, advisory system,
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