Department of Government

Policymaking informed by experts?

Per Lægreid has together with Tom Christensen published the article “Scientization under pressure – the problematic role of expert bodies during the COVID-19 pandemic” in Public Organization Review.


Main content

The handling of COVID-19 in various countries seems to be a good illustration of the differentiated impact of experts on public decision-making in crisis situations The COVID-19 crisis has tested the limits of what public bureaucracies are organized to handle. It is a transboundary and creeping mega-crisis characterized by complexity, uncertainty regarding means-end relations, and ambiguity regarding values. What is more, important decisions have had to be taken under great time pressure.. Both governance capacity and governance legitimacy have been challenged . Strategic crisis management is a managerial and functional matter requiring expert knowledge, but also a political issue involving value considerations and support from political executives as well as from citizens.

The role of experts

The article which is based on a structural-instrumental and a cultural perspective, finds that managing the pandemic led to a centralization of power in the hands of the political leadership, a blurring of the dichotomy between politics and administration, and a variety of expert advice. The authors argue that crisis management also reflected the cultural appropriateness of a collaborative decision-making style, but it was not characterized by a scientization of policymaking. Rather than policymaking by experts it was policymaking informed by experts.

The article is available here

Per Lægreid is also a guest co-editor together with Tom Christensen of a special issue on “The scientization of public decision-making processes to handle the COVID-19 Pandemic” of Public Organization Review. Their Introduction article is available here.