About the Conference
The economic, social and environmental governance challenges facing contemporary societies are growing in severity, scope and complexity; yet trust in experts and established institutions is in decline. The role and legitimacy of expertise in policymaking is increasingly being called into question.
Recently, populist and anti-globalisation movements in a number of countries, and on both ‘right’ and ‘left’, have achieved electoral success, in part by playing on these doubts and by rejecting the claims of experts to specialised knowledge and authority. These sentiments are even evident among many mainstream politicians. ‘People in this country have had enough of experts’ was the view of leading UK politician Michael Gove in 2016. US President Donald Trump has called global warming ‘bullshit’ and a ‘Chinese hoax’. In Australia we have seen some parliamentarians assert that vaccination causes autism, or that climate change is a fabrication, despite strong evidence to the contrary. We have seen a special commissioner appointed to investigate ‘Wind Turbine Syndrome’ despite no expert believing such a syndrome exists.
It is time to think anew, and self-critically, about our assumptions regarding experts and expertise. In this two-day conference our focus is on policymaking which is controversial, contested and complex; which is sociotechnical and not simply technical or purely scientific. In particular, we will explore three themes and how they manifest in practical policymaking.
Knowledge and Society
What constitutes scientific and social scientific expertise? How is it produced and reproduced? And what knowledge/s and technologies of expertise are deployed? When and why do experts get it wrong?
When it comes to making policy, what assumptions and problem-framings are prevalent? Which experts and what expertise is recruited? And how are knowledge gaps and ignorance handled?
Policy in Practice
What does the ‘crisis of expertise’ mean for thinking and re-thinking policymaking in practice? Is the ‘crisis of expertise’ a problem of democracy or does it go beyond this? What evidence counts (e.g. what value does ‘big data’ provide)? How should we think about the ‘public’ of public policy?
How is expert knowledge communicated? What is the role of science advisors, in-government experts, public and experiential expertise and public engagement in policymaking? How does policymaking in Australia, both past and current practice, compare with other countries (especially in our region) in its culture, structure and style? When does policymaking ‘work’, when does it ‘fail’, and why? And, given increasing specialisation, what is the role of inter- and trans-disciplinary approaches, concepts which are widely embraced but have often struggled to be as productive as their promises?
Innovation and Experimentation
What innovative approaches to policymaking and expertise hold the most promise? These might include the promise and perils of greater public participation and democratisation of policymaking, or the use of citizen science, citizen juries, aggregative expertise, crowd wisdom, practical knowledge, indigenous knowledge, and so on. What might be learned from policy-making in the global ‘South’?
This conference aims to include leading thinkers and policy practitioners both locally and globally. It is designed to be relatively small in size to enable all attendees to participate actively in the sessions. A number of key participants have been specially invited.
This conference is organised by the Melbourne School of Government (MSoG) at The University of Melbourne, Australia.
Conference Organising Committee
- Professor John Howe, Director, Melbourne School of Government, The University of Melbourne
- Professor Jon Pierre, Melbourne School of Government, The University of Melbourne
- Professor Lars Coenen, City of Melbourne Chair of Resilient Cities, The University of Melbourne
- Professor Robyn Eckersley, School of Social and Political Sciences, The University of Melbourne
- Dr Jeremy Baskin, Melbourne School of Government, The University of Melbourne
- Dr Daniel McCarthy, School of Social and Political Sciences, The University of Melbourne
The 2018 Melbourne School of Government Conference was held on Thursday 15 February and Friday 16 February 2018.
Professor Sheila Jasanoff
Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Harvard Kennedy School
Sheila Jasanoff is Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Previously, she was founding chair of Cornell University’s Department of Science and Technology Studies. At Harvard, she founded and directs the Program on Science, Technology and Society. Jasanoff’s research centers on the interactions of law, science, and politics in democratic societies. She has written more than 120 articles and book chapters and authored or edited more than 15 books, including The Fifth Branch, Science at the Bar, and Designs on Nature. An edited volume, Dreamscapes of Modernity, was published in 2015. Her newest book, The Ethics of Invention, appeared in 2016.
Jasanoff has held numerous distinguished professorships in the US, Europe, Australia, and Japan. She was a Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin and Karl W. Deutsch Guest Professor at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin. Her awards include a Guggenheim fellowship, the Austrian Government’s Ehrenkreuz, the George Sarton Chair of the University of Ghent, the Bernal award of the Society for Social Studies of Science, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Twente. She is a foreign member of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She holds an AB in Mathematics from Harvard College, a PhD in Linguistics from Harvard University, and a JD from Harvard Law School.
Keynote presentation: Toward a post-modern constitution: Reason and representation in the 21st Century
Professor Andy Stirling
Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex
Andy Stirling is Professor of Science and Technology Policy in the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex. A Fellow of the UK Academy of Social Science, he is (among many research projects) Co-Director of the STEPS Centre and Director of a University Enterprise on Multicriteria Mapping.
Professor Stirling is an interdisciplinary researcher, policy advisor and teacher on issues concerning democracy and sustainability in science, technology and innovation. With an educational background in astronomy, a Masters in Archaeology and Social Anthropology and a Doctorate in Technology Policy, his research focuses on the ‘directions of progress’. This involves variously studying , knowledge and power, uncertainty, precaution and participation, ‘opening up’ social appraisal and diversity and transformation. He has contributed to 8 books/monographs, 3 edited books, 56 academic book chapters, and 53 refereed articles.
Keynote presentation: Expertise and Democracy: from adversarial crisis to mutualistic renewal
Session 1: Contested knowledge, truth, trust and expertise
Session 2.1: Public institutions and social imaginaries in knowledge production
Session 2.2: Politics and discourses of expertise
Session 2.3: Ways of seeing: Legitimacy, authority and the creation of expertise
- David Mercer: Continuities and discontinuities in the processees of legitimating and challenging the authority of experts
- Declan Kuch: Subjects, numbers and narratives: the limits of QALY and tCO2-e as regulatory devices
- Rey Tiquia: Clinical evidence, medical expertise and Traditional Chinese Medicine
Session 2.4: Melbourne School of Government Mini Lab
Session 4.1: Experts, evidence and hierarchies of expertise
- Rebecca Pearse: Climate change economics has never been post-political
- Kari Lancaster: Problematising the 'evidence-based' policy paradigm
- Cosmo Howard: Statistical bargains: Relationships between politicians and statisticians
- Ronlyn Duncan, Melissa Robson and Sarah Edwards: Examining co-production and the role of brokers within New Zealand's 'science advisory ecosystem'
Session 4.2: Publics and participation
- Richard Hindmarsh: The crisis of expertise and civic participation in the making of public policy through the public inquiry on science, technology and environmental change
- Fiona Haines, Martin Bortz and Sara Bice: The familiar and the strange: Understanding the connection between science, technology and social protest around coal seam gas in Australia
- David Nolan, Margaret Simons and Jack Latimore: Expertise, public opinion and Indigenous policy agendas: Shifting media assemblages and their implications
- Rebecca Nelson: Law, science and water under pressure: governing data in a water democracy
Session 4.3: Climate's science, politics and policy
Session 5: New approaches, new paradigms
- Kathryn Davidson: New global city governance: City networks as medium of effective urban governance experimentation in institutionalizing policy renewal?
- Matthew Kearnes: Beyond residual realisms: four paths for remaking participation with science and democracy
- Brian Head: Pathways to politics innovation: Nudge experiments VS collaborative design
Session 6.1: Deliberation, democracy and experimentation
- Jonathan Pickering and Åsa Persson: Democratising planetary boundaries
- Alan Ryan: No room for gifted amateurs: Why effective future policy-making needs integrated learning and cross-agency expertise
- Amy Kaminski: Space for the people? NASA's experiences with democratizing innovation and decision-making
Session 6.2: Locating and negotiating the distribution of expertise
- Hayley Pring and Helen Sullivan: Modelling and strategic response for universities to the rise of think tanks in Australian public policy
- Alan Petersen: Experts and expertise in the age of 'evidence-based activism': exploring the case of patient and health activists
- Anca Hanea and Mark Burgman: Structured expert judgement: the art of using subjective data as objectively as possible
Session 6.3: Policy co-design across boundaries of experience and expertise