Epistemic communities

Authored by: Claire A. Dunlop

Routledge Handbook of Public Policy

Print publication date:  November  2012
Online publication date:  December  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415782456
eBook ISBN: 9780203097571
Adobe ISBN: 9781136223259

10.4324/9780203097571.ch18

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Abstract

Peter M. Haas formulated the epistemic communities framework as a means of exploring the influence of knowledge-based experts in international policy-making. Specifically, the approach was designed to address decision-making instances characterized by technical complexity and uncertainty. Control over the production of knowledge enables epistemic communities to articulate cause-and-effect relationships and so frame issues for collective debate and export their policy projects globally. Despite the framework being two decades old, there are still relatively few studies which explicitly test or develop the concept theoretically, thus making it difficult to assess what we have collectively and cumulatively learned about this topic. This chapter attempts to systematize key developments in the literature. The first section outlines the concept locating it in the politics of ideas literature. The second explores the state of the art in the empirical studies deploying the epistemic communities framework. The third section considers the theoretical challenges that researchers face when attempting to study epistemic communities. Discussion here proposes five possible causal pathways through which we can explain how epistemic communities help decision-makers learn. The chapter closes with a brief sketch of potential future research frontiers for scholars interested in the power of knowledge and epistemic communities in public policy.

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