Public participation in energy market regulation in Great Britain

Blakelock and TurnpennyElizabeth Blakelock and John Turnpenny

Politicians in Great Britain are severely constrained when it comes to influencing the energy system. This is largely because decision making has been delegated – away from elected representatives to technical experts, and, specifically in the case of energy markets, to the regulator, Ofgem (the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets). Although legislation can attempt to shape Ofgem’s work, the impact of attempts to do so have been mixed at best. Continue reading

What informs policy? Sources of information bureaucrats use in policymaking

Koga et alNatália Massaco Koga, Miguel Loureiro
Pedro Lucas de Moura Palotti, Rafael da Silva Lins
Bruno Gontyjo do Couto and Shanna Nogueira Lima.

The Evidence-based policy (EBP) movement argues for policy actors to use scientific evidence on ‘what works’ to improve public policies, highlighting the importance of science in policymaking. Empirical research shows that even bureaucrats in Anglo-Saxon countries, strongly influenced by this movement do not use academic sources widely, often preferring other sources of information, such as news media, public opinion and peers. But what informs policy in countries with low EBP influence?

In our recent article published in Policy & Politics, we give an overview of the sources of information Brazilian bureaucrats use in their policy work. Our study not only shows what informs bureaucrats in general, but also what informs different bureaucrats in their different policy contexts. Using data from a large-n survey with 2,180 Brazilian federal bureaucrats, we uncovered associations between sources of information and factors shaping their preferences, such as policy work and policy capacities. Based on the literature on policy analysis and EBP we present an analytical model for examining the use of information sources by bureaucrats in policymaking. Our framework advocates that sources of information depend on individual characteristics, the type of work, the policy sector and analytical policy capacities (see the diagram below).

Factors shaping bureaucrats’ use of information sources

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We found that in a civil law system such as the Brazilian administration, ‘homemade’ sources dominate: mainly government sources were used, especially among bureaucrats performing analytical and oversight tasks, and those in higher positions. In fact, there was a strong association between sources of information produced by government and most contextual variables. In addition, we found a significant use of in-house sources in analytical and oversight types of policy work by mid-level bureaucrats in the control policy realm, as well as – to a lesser extent – in economic and social policy sectors. We also observed that the use of academic sources was associated with higher analytical capacity – both of the individual and of the organisation – although it was not predominant in any particular policy sector. The table below details these findings.

Type of policy work and sources of information

picture2

Two main issues emerge from these results. The first is the potential role that government sources of information play as an intermediary and validator of other sources of information; the second concerns the relationships found between the analytical and oversight work. Are there gatekeepers or knowledge brokers controlling which sources of information reach the federal administration? If so, who are they and how does this dynamic operate? Our results seem to suggest that oversight and mid-level bureaucrats are key actors exercising this function.

An aspect rarely discussed in the literature is what effect a country’s legal system exerts on the legitimacy of different types of information. For example, the civil law legal system in Brazil (in contrast to common law systems) may necessitate the transformation of different types of information into governmental sources such as laws and regulations, formal legal opinions or control agencies’ recommendations, in order to be legitimated by the state.

Based on our findings, we propose two important policy prescriptions. Firstly, as contextual factors are relevant to determine which sources of information public officials use, then enhancing analytical capacity seems particularly important. This is also important if we are to expand and improve the use of scientific knowledge in policymaking. One way of doing that is to strengthen the relationship between individual and organisational capacities. Secondly, we can’t ignore the inherent political nature of policymaking and the necessity of combining scientific sources with other sources of information in public administration. Efforts to build good evidence-based governance systems need to consider that other types of knowledge beyond scientific knowledge can also count as evidence and can be equally valuable sources of scientific knowledge as government sources.

You can read the original research in Policy & Politics

Natália Massaco Koga, Miguel Loureiro, Pedro Lucas de Moura Palotti, Rafael da Silva Lins, Bruno Gontyjo do Couto, and Shanna Nogueira Lima. (2022) Analysing the information sources Brazilian bureaucrats use as evidence in everyday policymaking Policy and Politics.

If you enjoyed this blog post, you may also be interested to read:

The neglected politics behind evidence-based policy: shedding light on instrument constituency dynamics

Expert knowledge and policymaking: a multi-disciplinary research agenda

Lessons from policy theories for the pursuit of equity in health, education and gender policy

Special Issue: Transformational change through Public Policy

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Policy & Politics, the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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Updating your course reading lists? Check out our essential reading recommendations for teaching Public Participation, Gender and the Policy Process, and Policy Innovation from Policy & Politics

Elizabeth SarahElizabeth Koebele with Sarah Brown

Are you planning a new policy or politics-focused course? Or maybe you’re updating your existing syllabi with some of the newest research on policy and politics? We’re here to help! In this blog, we provide recommendations for new Policy & Politics articles (as well as a few older favorites) that make excellent contributions to syllabi for a diversity of courses. We hope this saves you time and effort in mining our recent articles while also ensuring your course materials reflect the latest research from the frontiers of the discipline. Continue reading

Why refrain from torturing foreigners abroad?: British counterterrorism and the international prohibition of torture. 

Janina Heaphy newJanina Heaphy

My recent article published in Policy & Politics explores why politicians would decide to restrict their own counterterrorism operations, despite a persistently high terrorist threat and little pressure from the public? After years of violating human rights in the name of counterterrorism, the UK, for instance, implemented new policies, which, at least on paper, were supposed to protect foreigners abroad from the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, and its American partners’ coercive interrogation practices. Usually, such changes are attributed to a scandal, to the governing politicians’ ideology, to the public mood, or to a particularly strong lobby group – but what if all these explanations simply do not apply, as was the case for the so-called British “Principles” in 2019? Continue reading

How can non-elected representatives secure democratic representation?

fossheim-karin2Karin Fossheim

Research on the democratic legitimacy of non-elected actors influencing policy while acting as representatives is often lacking in governance literature, despite being increasingly relevant worldwide in both established and emerging democracies. Recent theories of representation argue that there are non-electoral mechanisms to appoint such non-elected representatives and hold them responsible for their actions. Consequently, democratic non-electoral representation can be achieved. Through in-depth, empirical analysis, this article explores democratic non-electoral representation in governance networks by comparing how non-elected representatives, their constituents and the decision-making audience understand the outcome of representation to benefit the constituency, authorisation and accountability. This analysis explores the perspectives of the non-elected representatives, the constituency and the audience and discusses the theoretical implications of the results.

The research findings conclude that all three groups mostly share the understanding of democratic non-electoral representation as ongoing interactions between representatives and constituents, multiple (if any) organisational and discursive sources of authorisation and deliberative aspects of accountability. All of these are mechanisms that, in the absence of elections, can secure democratic representation. Contrary to what the theory suggests, accountability based on sanctions is not considered essential to ensure democratic non-electoral representation.

These findings make an important contribution to the literature on non-electoral representation in policymaking and to the broader literature on representative democracy.


You can read the original research in Policy & Politics

Fossheim Karin (2022) How can non-elected representatives secure democratic representation? Policy and Politics DOI: https://doi.org/10.1332/030557321X16371011677734

If you enjoyed this blog post, you may also be interested to read:

Why don’t citizens give governments credit when they deliver on electoral pledges?


The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Policy & Politics, the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

How partisan politics influence government policies in response to ageing populations

Kweon & Suzuki
Yesola Kweon & Kohei Suzuki

Unlike other social policies which disproportionately target economically disadvantaged individuals, old-age programs, like pensions, mitigate life-course risks that are relevant to everyone. Whether someone is lower- or upper-class, young or old, everyone ages and could experience unexpected costs and reduced income. For this reason, all parties across the ideological spectrum have a political incentive to support these programs. Nevertheless, in our new article in Policy & Politics, ‘How partisan politics influence government policies in response to ageing populations,’ we emphasize that partisan politics still matter in determining the modes of policy provision in response to an ageing population. Continue reading

How do policy transfer mechanisms influence policy outcomes in the context of authoritarianism in Vietnam?

Hang DuongHang Duong

In my recent research article in Policy & Politics, I investigate how policy transfer mechanisms influence policy outcomes in the context of authoritarianism in Vietnam. My findings show that civil service reforms in Vietnam’s merit-based policies are influenced by both Western and Asian models of meritocracy. This makes it both closer to universal “best practices” and at the same time sharpens the distinctiveness of Vietnam’s policy. While reform imperatives urge Vietnam to seek lessons from the West, the context of an Asian authoritarian regime explains their prioritising of experience from similar settings like China and other Asian countries. The pragmatic calculations of political actors in combination with the context of a one-party authoritarian state have led to transfer from contrasting meritocratic philosophies and models through mechanisms of translation and assemblage, resulting in a hybrid of convergence and divergence. Continue reading

An organisational approach to meta-governance – structuring reforms through organisational (re-)engineering 

Jarle Trondal

Jarle Trondal

Innovation in the public sector has climbed to the top of government agendas with ambitions to make public administration flexible in the face of societal ruptures. There is a growing body of research which tries to identify how institutions and systems respond to surprises, uncertainty and errors. Studies also provide insights on how different institutional conditions enable individuals and organisations to respond to profound change. In my recent article in Policy & Politics, I argue that organisation theory may help to serve as a bridge between theory and practice linking scholarship to the realities of practice, concerned not just with how things are, but how things might be. Given certain goals, such as innovation in public organisations, organisation designers would thus be capable of recommending structural solutions. Continue reading

Can citizen involvement in the recruitment of front-line employees help to identify candidates who will be effective at co-production?

Trischler P&PJakob Trischler

In our recent open access article in Policy & Politics, Johan Kaluza and I take as our starting point for our argument the point that public service organisations should recognise citizens as active co-producers rather than passive recipients in service design and provision. Indeed, there are a number of studies showing that citizens are capable and willing to contribute to public service outcomes that are beneficial not only to themselves but also to the broader citizenry.

However, an important question in the co-production debate is how organisations can effectively engage and enable citizens to become co-producers. We argue that one answer to this question lies in the role taken by front-line employees. Through direct contact and collaboration with service users, they can ‘activate’ citizens to co-produce. Taking this argument one step further, we ask if the actual recruitment of these front-line employees could be a co-produced process with respective service users involved? But what happens when relevant users are actually involved in the recruitment of social workers, teachers, or employment officers? Continue reading

President Trump’s Policy Overreaction Style during Manufactured Crises

moshe maorMoshe Maor

Recently, we have witnessed deliberate constructions of migration crises, for example, by Victor Orbán, in Hungary in the period 2015–2018, and by Donald Trump, in the run-up to the U.S. 2018 midterm elections. In both cases, Orbán and Trump skillfully exploited the challenges that the general public sometimes faces in determining when a crisis begins and when a crisis is over. Furthermore, both leaders were willing to see certain threats, or at the very least the perception that there is a threat, ramped up in order to advance their political goals. They were able to step up existential warnings while taking advantage of the opportunities that arose as they determined the starting point and other temporal elements of the immigration crises they manufactured. Continue reading