The role of experts in policy making

  • Colin Reeve

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    As public policy issues increasingly have a technical aspect to them an interactive relationship has developed between science and policy. The aim of this thesis is to investigate the two aspects of this relationship: the influence of science on policy and the influence of policy implications on science. Most existing studies in this area treat only one or other of these aspects. Furthermore, they tend to provide interesting case study material but very little theoretical analysis. This thesis attempts to overcome these problems by dealing with both aspects of the interaction between science and policy and by providing theoretical models of this relationship. The thesis combines the theoretical development of these models with the analysis of three empirical case studies: the controversy in Britain over smoking and health; the application of educational psychology to the development of education policy in Britain; the controversy over the health effect of lead in the environment. The theoretical models are developed in Part 1. In Part 2 the empirical case studies are presented and in Part 3 the theoretical material is assessed in the light of these case studies. The main thesis of this study is that there is a fundamental mismatch between science and policy-making. Criticism is always essential in science. However, when science is involved in the policy process, either scientific claims are not subjected to a significant level of criticism or they are scrutinized so closely that no view achieves general consensus and conflicting advice results. In this situation, contrary to the traditional view, science can generate uncertainty. The role which science plays in the policy process is influenced by this level of criticism, by the context of political power and by the progress of an issue through the various stages of the policy process.
    Date of Award1985
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorDavid Collingridge (Supervisor)


    • policy making
    • experts
    • smoking
    • lead
    • IQ

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