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Expertise and Policy Learning – The Case of the European Union’s Research Policy

Abstract: This thesis examines policy learning and expertise in the European Union research policy by focusing on the Open Method of Coordination (OMC) initiative. The research is guided by the overarching question - How do experts’ individual policy learning experiences relate to the EU’s research policy? First, background of the European Union’s research policy is presented, clarifying the need for policy learning. Second, the theoretical approaches on expertise and theories of policy learning are analyzed. The synthesis of the two streams of literature leads to a conceptual framework for the study, featuring two distinct perspectives of policy learning – the evidence-based approach and the value-based approach. This framework brings the individual experiences of the OMC participants into focus, allowing an examination of policy processes that do not always result in direct policy changes. For data collection three distinct OMC working groups are selected, each focusing on a different topic related to European research policy – research funding (Group 1), research cooperation with Third Countries (Group 2) and research activities in universities (Group 3). A case study approach is employed, involving document analysis, a pilot study and thirty-four interviews with member-states’ experts and European Commission policy-makers. The findings suggest that individual policy learning shapes the development of European research policy. Through the OMC policy learning initiatives participants gain new knowledge on policy approaches, programs, best practices and policy failures. In addition, learning experiences involve knowledge on individual relationships, decision-making styles, organizational cultures and power-relationships that diverse stakeholders bring with them to the process. Such knowledge helps to update the policy beliefs of participants, providing a strong foundation for developing mutual ownership of decisions that lead to policy coordination. The findings emphasize the importance of a value-based perspective in policy analysis, where results emerge gradually, over a long time period and contribute to policy change.

Author: Merli Tamtik

Source: University of Toronto - TSpace

Size: 7.52 MB
Last Updated: July 31, 2015