We expect good government to be guided by clear and coherent policies on the key issues of the day. But in reality things are a lot messier.
There may be administrative reasons, or gaps in state capacity when it comes to turning policies into practice. There may be powerful interests promoting outcomes at odds with the public good, or a range of conflicting interests which make determining a common interest difficult. There may be a lack of integrity by elected politicians determining policy choices, or a lack of public buy-in for some policies widely regarded by policy experts as desirable. Indeed the expertise of those designing policy itself may be challenged, especially in the current context of declining trust in the authority of many existing institutions and their associated experts. There may be new technologies or modes of regulation whose workings are poorly understood. Then again, policymaking is always shaped by competing values and imaginations of what constitutes the ‘good society’. It is not surprising, therefore, that so many policy challenges seem to be difficult to resolve and are sometimes called ‘wicked problems’.
The School of Government’s ‘Troubling Policy’ theme focuses both on controversial, intractable policy challenges and on asking difficult questions about the policymaking process itself. It comprises three core activities:
- Scholarly work on expertise and expert knowledge. This flows from our 2018 conference ‘A Crisis of Expertise?’
- A ‘Troubling Policy’ seminar series which asks difficult questions about controversial or intractable policy challenges, seeks to find new ways of looking at these, and embraces insights from across disciplines. The series aims to explore the societal and political context in which policy is developed, including the knowledge and expertise used, the technologies deployed, how these combine to shape regulation, the relationship between controversy and the policy process, and the effectiveness (or otherwise) of policy implementation.
- Supporting a network of scholars at the University of Melbourne (STS@UoM), from across faculties, who draw upon the discipline of Science, Technology and Society (STS). These are scholars engaging critically with developments in one or more areas where science and technology is central, and where the relationship to society is complex and contested. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
Troubling Policy Seminar Series
This seminar series asks difficult questions about controversial or intractable policy challenges, seeks to find new ways of looking at these, and embraces insights from across disciplines. The series aims to explore the societal and political context in which policy is developed, including the knowledge/s and expertise used, the technologies deployed, how these combine to shape regulation, the relationship between controversy and the policy process, and the effectiveness (or otherwise) of policy implementation. The series is hosted by the Melbourne School of Government.
This is a scholarly, but engaged, seminar series with a public policy focus. Each seminar aims to address one specific policy issue or a way of looking at policy issues.
Each seminar aims to attract those specifically interested in the subject being addressed and those interested in public policymaking more generally (academics, practitioners and grad students). Speakers are encouraged not only to talk about their specific topic but also to reflect on what concepts, frameworks, epistemologies and so on which have emerged in their work might travel across policy domains. The seminars are deliberately scheduled for 75 minutes to enable detailed presentation of the research and to facilitate debate.
We aim to hold these seminars fortnightly during term times.
Knowledge and expertise
This theme addresses three key questions:
- What are the emerging ideas, tools and frameworks that will shape the way in which public policy is designed and implemented in the 21st century?
- How can 'evidence' be best utilised in order to support the construction of better public policy and better institutions?
- How can innovation (methods and media) help bridge the gap between citizens and professional or technical experts?
- Defining an "Asia Capability" for Australia's Public Service
- A user-centred design approach to communicating complexity and uncertainty for the formation of infectious diseases health policy
- The Civic Impact of Journalism
- Developing a legislation testing lab that will better enable law reform to achieve its policy objectives
- Public Policy in the Asian Century