What does ‘evidence’ mean to MPs and officials in the UK House of Commons?

Posted on

A blog by Marc Geddes, based on a recent open-access article published in Public Administration.

Select committees are the principal mechanism of accountability in the House of Commons and act as information-gathering tools for Parliament. They are generally regarded as influential in the UK policy-making process (even if this is often informal), who enjoy widespread media coverage, and who have a generally positive reputation. Despite their importance, we know comparatively little about how they approach and use evidence to support their work (with some notable exceptions). In this blog, I want to explore precisely this topic. (more…)

Kat Smith, Sudeepa Abeysinghe and Christina Boswell: Reflections on the impact of Covid-19

Posted on

This blogpost is a summary of the SKAPE Seminar on the 24 June 2020

Kat Smith (Strathclyde), Sudeepa Abeysinghe (Social Policy, Edinburgh) and Christina Boswell (PIR, Edinburgh) presented three complementary perspectives on the on the impact of Covid-19 on the study of the relationship between science, knowledge and policy.

Christina Boswell noted the extent, and unprecedented (more…)

Seven Questions for Studying Science, Knowledge and Policy in a Covid-19 World

Posted on

Marc Geddes, Justyna Bandola-Gill, and Steve Yearley 

Covid-19 has spread across the globe, upturning our personal lives and uprooting our routines; and led to significant health problems including, sadly, deaths. Across the globe, people have been forced into lockdown to prevent physical contact with others. Covid-19 has already, or is going to, impact all areas of our lives. It will challenge us in many as-yet unforeseen ways.

From the beginning of this crisis, we have witnessed a growing importance of the questions of the role of science, knowledge and expertise in politics and society. As the SKAPE community we have been exploring these themes from multiple perspectives for nearly a decade and (more…)

Uncertainty, Pandemics and Policy

Posted on

A blogpost by Sudeepa Abeysinghe, Lecturer in Global Health Policy at the University of Edinburgh 

This blogpost is a repost of a blogpost published in April 2016 on the SKAPE blogpage 

The global management of emerging and reemerging infectious diseases present a complex governance issue. The most recent Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), the incidence of cases of microcephaly associated with the Zika virus, demonstrates the high level of scientific uncertainty associated with infectious disease risks. When the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the PHEIC in February, the issue was surrounded by a high degree of uncertainty: for example, around the mode of transmission (and the possibility of sexual transmission), the association between microcephaly and Zika infection, and the likelihood of a Zika-infected pregnant woman carrying a child with microcephaly. (more…)

Governing, knowledge and time: a governmentality perspective

Posted on

A blogpost by Dr. Marlon Barbehön, Heidelberg University

This blogpost based on a talk at the SKAPE seminar on 27 August 2019 

Time and practices of governing are intertwined in multiple ways. Political rule in general and its democratic form in particular are not possible without the temporalisation of processes and of institutional settings which constitute specific rhythms of political participation, deliberation, and decision-making. Political order can be seen as a complex configuration of stages, periods, intervals, cycles, and deadlines, which foster predictability and enable purposeful political action. At the same time, political strategies can be built on utilisations of time, (more…)

Democratising expertise? Lay citizens in the role of experts

Posted on

A blogpost by Eva Krick, ARENA Centre for European Studies, University of Oslo

This blogpost is based on a talk at the SKAPE seminar on 20 March 2019

In the SKAPE seminar, I would like to discuss a first outline of a research proposal that I am developing. It focuses on the involvement of ‘lay’ or ‘citizen experts’ in knowledge and advice production through practices such as citizen science, service user involvement and certain forms of citizen panels.

I have been working on the relationship between expertise and democracy for a while and, more particularly, on institutional solutions to the tensions between epistemic and democratic demands in the phase of policy development. (more…)

How British think tanks weathered the 2008 financial crisis

Posted on

A blogpost by Marcos Gonzalez Hernando, Affiliated Researcher at the University of Cambridge, Senior Researcher at Think Tank for Action on Social Change (FEPS-TASC)

More than ten years after Lehman Brothers’ file for bankruptcy, the economic and political fallout of the global economic crisis can still be felt. Its effects have not only been political and economic, but also epistemic: economists were suddenly and resoundly believed to have failed in preventing or predicting what they had, for decades, been seen to have undisputed authority over. Nevertheless, those seeking to be considered experts on economic matters became ever more visible, as explanations for what went wrong were urgently demanded by policymakers and the wider public. (more…)

Beyond diagnosis? Shifting approaches in psychiatry

Posted on

A blogpost by Martyn Pickersgill, Centre for Biomedicine, Self and Society at The University of Edinburgh


The use of biological ideas and techniques in the study of mental ill-health and the practice of psychiatry is nothing new. But just because it isn’t new doesn’t mean that’s the only thing that’s going on in research and in the clinic: many other notions (psychological, sociological, and so on) interpolate with somatic emphases in psychiatry. (more…)

How to engage effectively and ‘speak truth to power’

Posted on

A blogpost by Prof Paul Cairney, University of Stirling

The story of ‘speaking truth to power’ comes up frequently in these science-policy debates. Many scientists describe their role in producing the best scientific evidence, seeking to maximise the role of scientific evidence in policy, and criticising policymakers vociferously if they don’t use evidence to inform their decisions.

Yet, as I and Dr Richard Kwiatkowski (Cranfield University) argue in ‘How to Communicate Effectively with Policymakers’, ‘without establishing legitimacy and building trust’ such strategies can be counter productive. (more…)

The role of socialisation in education governance: the case of the OECD country reviews [1]

Posted on

A blogpost by Dr. Sotiria Grek, University of Edinburgh

As already widely debated by academics and policy actors alike, the OECD has instigated a new era in education governance, primarily through its construction of a commensurable transnational education space. Given the vast policy implications for systems worldwide, the predominant idea is that it is OECD’s technical capacity to decontextualize and compare that became the primary force behind its success. Nevertheless, there are other aspects to OECD’s policy work that have been systematically ignored; for example, (more…)