the research-policy interface: context

My previous post on the research policy interface described a case study of a particular Dutch policy arena and the way this resulted in an understanding of the Dutch welfare state as including experts and research as lubricants of the system, something I called a systemic role for research. My argument was that to understand that role better would require international comparisons, suggested a framework for such comparisons and told you I wasn’t aware of anyone having pursued this further. Nevertheless, progress in conceptualizing and investigating the issue has been made.

Multilevel conceptual framework for understanding science-policy interactions (Robert Hoppe (University of Twente, Faculty of Management and Governance,<br />Department of Science, Technology and Policy Studies)

Multilevel conceptual framework for understanding science-policy interactions (Robert Hoppe, University of Twente, Faculty of Management and Governance, Department of Science, Technology and Policy Studies)

Rob Hoppe and colleagues implemented a big research program with many PhD students on Rethinking Political Judgement and Science-Based Expertise which studied the particular Dutch configuration in detail. The result is a hugely enriched understanding of the systemic role of research in various Dutch policy arenas.

Had I not moved to Cambodia at the time when this research program was starting up I would have tried to align my own engagement with the research-policy interface issue at siswo with the conceptual framework Hoppe c.s. use. Their reframing of the research utilization discourse as boundary work is theoretically richer than our conceptually similar relationship frame.  And the whole research program was aimed at understanding the particularly close relationship between researchers and policy makers in the Netherlands that our case study had identified as a defining characteristic of the Dutch welfare state/consensual democracy.

I just read a 2010 overview of main findings of the research project (the pic above is from that book chapter) and the added value of the boundary work frame is evident. The multi-level description Hoppe uses, which goes from (inter)national institutional-cultural regimes or ‘landscapes’, to the level of policy or issue networks, to organizations, and finally projects, makes it more systematic than the conceptual framework of building bridges, described in my previous post the research-policy interface: a helicopter view.

At the same time it is evident that of the two more macro levels in this hierarchy, which are described as constituting the constraining/enabling ‘context’ in the building bridges model, the broadest, i.e. national political and academic culture, is not really explored in the Hoppe c.s. research program. It was reassuring to see that they apparently agree with what we suggested as an appropriate perspective for comparative studies, i.c. national ‘styles’ of policy-making and implementation. But that perspective is not accompanied by a systematic analytic tool comparable to the actual framework we suggested, developed by Frans van Waarden which distinguishes six dimensions to define a typology space of “policy styles”.  So for this, more than a decade after observing the need for such comparisons, we’re still waiting for the first serious effort to be made.

To conclude, this framework for comparison only covers the national political/regulatory culture not academic culture. For those of you who can appreciate a typology by ridicule, this 1981 essay by Johan Galtung is still a good laugh with an underlying serious intent. He distinguishes four intellectual styles and typifies them as follows:

  • Saxonic style: how do you operationalise it? (US version), how do you document it? (UK version)
  • Teutonic style: wie können Sie das zurückführen/ableiten? (how can you trace this back/deduce it from basic principles?)
  • Gallic style: peut-on dire cela en bon français? (is it possible to say this in French?)
  • Nipponic style: donatano monka desuka? (who is your master?)


About roger henke

Still figuring out the story line that would satisfy myself here. Listening to what my family and friends evoke, what the words I absorb, the images that move me, the movements that still me, point to.
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One Response to the research-policy interface: context

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