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Communicating about Climate Change with Policymakers  

Ishani Mukherjee and Michael Howlett

Policy communication and the resulting influence that information has on policy decision-makers is an especially pertinent topic when it comes to problems of climate change. Notorious for its complexity, uncertainty, and divergence of viewpoints, climate change has earned the title of being the major “wicked” or “super-wicked” problem of our times. A proliferation of expertise, interests, and capacities mark the climate change policymaking landscape and this density of players warrants an advanced framework to understand the ways in which the variety of climate-pertinent knowledge is communicated to policymakers. Moving beyond undifferentiated “two-communities” models of knowledge utilization in policymaking which limit the discussion to the bilateral interactions between knowledge experts or “producers” and information “consumers” of the public sector, this article explores the concept of a policy advisory system, which embodies the different sets of influence that various policy actors can have during policy decision-making and how communication between and among actors is a significant aspect of climate change policymaking. The concept of policy advisory systems is an important new development in the policy studies literature and one that is analytically very applicable to climate policy contexts. Suitably generalizable across representative policy settings, policy advisory systems are comprised of distinct groups of actors who are engaged in the definition of policy problems, the articulation of policy solutions, or the matching of policy problems to solutions. We explore how individual members of these separate sets of actors—namely the epistemic community, which is occupied in discourses about policy problems; the instrument constituencies which define policy instruments; and the advocacy coalitions which compete to have their choice of policy alternatives adopted—interact and communicate with policymakers across climate change policy activities.


Global Actors: Networks, Elites, and Institutions  

Mikael Rask Madsen and Mikkel Jarle Christensen

Over the past several decades scholars have intensively debated what factors drive globalization. Answers have ranged from the emergence of the information society and the global economy to value-conflicts embedded in different civilizations. A different yet closely related question is who is driving globalization? That is, however, much less studied, even if it is arguably key to making global governance intelligible. A whole list of actors seem to offer possible answers to the question of who the globalizers are: Are they global institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) or the International Criminal Court (ICC); communities of experts providing technocratic solutions; transnational networks of activists seeking to alter global and national politics by pursuing, for example, environmental or human rights agendas; or are they powerful individuals forming transnational elites taking the fate of the global society in their hands at a safe distance from ordinary politics in places such as Brussels, New York, or Davos?


Global Environmental Change and the New Social Contract for Research  

Noel Castree

Humans are altering the hydrosphere, cryosphere, lithosphere, biosphere, and atmosphere in unprecedented ways. Since the late 1980s, a range of geoscience disciplines (such as climatology and ecology) have shown humans to be a “planetary force.” The scale, scope, and magnitude of people’s combined activities threaten to take the planet’s environmental systems out of their Holocene state. This not only raises new research questions for the academic community (such as “What is the best way for a low-income, low-lying country to adapt to sea-level rise?”). It also invites the community to rethink its role in relation to the societies that fund its research and will experience profound impacts of global environmental change. In turn, this rethink raises the question of what kind of research will best suit a change of role. In recent years some global change researchers have called for a “new social contract.” These calls challenge the “old” social contract wherein academic independence was assured by governments so long as universities produced a succession of benefits to society on the basis of both fundamental (non-applied) research and “use-inspired” inquiry and invention. The new social contract directs global change researchers to produce much more of the latter, namely “decision-relevant” knowledge (for governments and other stakeholders). This means that global change research (GCR) will become less geoscience dominated and include more social science and even humanities content: after all, it is human activities that are both the cause of, and solution to, our planetary maladies. A more applied and people-focused GCR community promises to deliver many benefits in the years ahead. However, there are some problems with the way a new social contract is currently being conceived. Unless these problems are addressed, the GCR community will arguably serve societies worldwide far less well than it could and should do. This review describes the old and new social contract ideas in relation to present and future GCR. It does so both descriptively and in a critically constructive way, presenting arguments for a truly new social contract for GCR.


Social Cartography in Educational Research  

Rene Suša and Vanessa de Oliveira Andreotti

Social cartography is a method for qualitative research in education. It has been used mostly in comparative and international education, but it has wider applications. It originated from the body of work of Rolland Paulston, who outlined its main conceptual premises and methodological propositions. Unlike other cartographic practices that are mostly concerned with mapping of physical space, social cartography was developed with the purpose of providing a research tool that is capable of mapping relations between and within various epistemic communities and discursive and interpretative frameworks. The practice of social cartography seeks to challenge the positivist and objectivist imperative for singular, “authentic” knowledge and to disrupt the universalizing and totalizing claims of dominant perspectives and frameworks. It does so by mapping the complex and overlapping relations between different discursive and epistemic communities and by situating them in a broader discursive field. Post-representational approaches to social cartography emphasize the agentic properties of maps. These approaches work both on and with the mapmaker and the map reader in ways that seek to trouble and interrupt usual investments in meaning-making and epistemic and discursive privilege.



Francesca Panzironi

A network may refer to “a group of interdependent actors and the relationships among them,” or to a set of nodes linked by a web of interdependencies. The concept of networks has its origins in earlier philosophical and sociological ideas such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “general will” and Émile Durkheim’s “social facts”, which adressed social and political communities and how decisions are mediated and ideas are structured within them. Networks encompass a wide range of theoretical interpretations and critical applications across different disciplines, including governance networks, policy networks, public administration networks, social movement networks, intergovernmental networks, social networks, trade networks, computer networks, information networks, and neural networks. Governance networks have been proposed as alternative pluricentric governance models representing a new form of negotiated governance based on interdependence, negotiation and trust. Such networks differ from the competitive market regulation and state hierarchical control in three aspects: the relationship between the actors, decision-making processes, and compliance. The decision-making processes within governance networks are founded on a reflexive rationality rather than the “procedural rationality” which characterizes the competitive market regulation and the “substantial rationality” which underpins authoritative state regulation. Network theory has proved especially useful for scholars in positing the existence of loosely defined and informal webs of experts or advocates that can have a real and substantial influence on international relations discourse and policy. Two examples of the use of network theory in action are transnational advocacy networks and epistemic communities.


Foreign Policy Learning  

Guy Ziv

An improved understanding of foreign policy learning necessitates a clarification of what foreign policy learning is, who learns, and how such learning occurs. Cognitive and social psychologists, sociologists, and political scientists situated in a variety of subfields have contributed to the understanding of foreign policy learning, a multidisciplinary area of inquiry. Learning theorists seek to show how a change in an actor’s beliefs due to experience or observation can lead to changes at other units, such as organizations and within the government. This cognitive dimension is important because actors may pursue a new course of action for politically expedient reasons rather than having genuinely “learned”—a distinction referred to as “complex” vs. “simple” learning. Foreign policy learning can be internal or external. The former type of learning entails what individuals, governments, or organizations learn from their prior experience. Learning theorists who focus on the individual level of analysis borrow insights from political psychology in an effort to shed light on the personal characteristics, the belief structures, and the cognitive psychological mechanisms of political actors that can better inform policymaking. Leaders whose cognitive structures are described as relatively open and complex—like Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, whose learning brought about the dramatic changes that ultimately led to the demise of the Soviet Union—are more likely to alter their beliefs than their cognitively closed and simple counterparts. Yet external learning occurs as well. Policy diffusion studies show that learning can result from demonstration effects. Foreign policy learning via diffusion is not instrumental, but instead occurs through osmosis. Privatization in the former communist states, China’s Foreign Direct Investment liberalization, and the diffusion of environmental norms in the European Union are examples of learning that is contagious, not chosen. A more conscious mode of learning than diffusion is policy transfer, which entails policymakers’ transferring ideas from one country and implementing them in another. Technological innovations, unlike lessons that involve political ideology, are generally easier lessons to transfer—for example, Japan’s success in applying lessons from the West to modernize its army in the second half of the 19th century. The constraints to foreign policy learning are formidable. Decision makers are not always open to reconsidering views that challenge their beliefs. Leaders tend to resort to, and misuse, analogies that prevent learning. Even a change in a decision maker’s beliefs may not lead to foreign policy change, given the myriad political pressures, bureaucratic hurdles, and economic realities that often get in the way of implementing new ideas. Indeed, foreign policy learning and foreign policy change are not synonymous. Scholars face significant obstacles in studying foreign policy learning. There is no consensus on the definition of learning, on what constitutes learning, on how actors learn, when they learn, or on how to assess whether learning has taken place. Despite attempts to make sense of the confusion, scholars face the daunting challenge of improving understanding of how learning is shaped and funneled through the interaction of agents and the structures in which they are situated, as well as the relationship between learning and foreign policy change.