Epistemic communities are an established concept in the study of international relations but can also explain policy change at the domestic level. This article asks why some epistemic communities manage to convince decision makers of their preferred policies while others do not. It suggests that the reason lies in the causal mechanism of epistemic communities' influence on decision makers, mediated by decision makers' demand for expert input. Most epistemic communities scholarship focuses on single case studies where the communities' influence on policy was strong and clear, leading to an overestimation of the groups' influence. To help correct this probable bias, this article compares a successful case of epistemic community influence (health technology assessment in Poland) with an unsuccessful example of the same policy (in the Czech Republic). The juxtaposition allows for unpacking of the necessary parts of the causal mechanism (emergence of an epistemic community, its activity, access to decision makers, and successful suasion) and separating them from the crucial scope condition. Decision makers' uncertainty about the policy issue at hand has traditionally been the key scope condition for epistemic communities but the successful Polish case demonstrates that epistemic communities can be influential even in highly certain areas of routine policymaking, leading to a reconceptualization of uncertainty as policymakers' demand for expert input. Demand can originate from various sources, but any change of it affects individual parts of the causal mechanism, leading to a success or failure of epistemic communities' policy enterprise.
Policy Studies Journal – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
Keywords: ; ; ; ; ;
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