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Politicians in white coats? Scientific advisory committees and policy in Britain

(2018) Politicians in white coats? Scientific advisory committees and policy in Britain. Public Policy and Administration, 33 (4). pp. 428-446. ISSN 0952-0767

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Identification Number: 10.1177/0952076717711746


Do scientists advising government in scientific advisory committees (SACs) in the UK fit the traditional model of offering substantive scientific advice to improve the quality of policy making, are they forums for policy making and negotiation where “the science” is tempered by broader political concerns, or are they simply bodies that legitimise policies already decided upon? The traditional “on tap” model and its alternatives imply differences in how the agendas of SACs are put together, how committees deliberate and how they influence policy, and these implied differences are explored on the basis of a 2015 survey covering the experiences and attitudes of 338 members from 46 scientific committees. The traditional model holds up rather well against models that see SACs filling broader political roles such as policy deliberation and legitimation. The findings suggest that the organization and procedures of SACs indeed allow scientists to offer advice largely without having to engage with or anticipate wider policy considerations and constraints, and that government “steering” or otherwise leading SAC deliberations toward politically desired conclusions is rare.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2017 The Authors
Divisions: Government
Subjects: J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
Q Science > Q Science (General)
Sets: Departments > Government
Date Deposited: 30 May 2017 09:46
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2020 00:48

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