Home Sociology Policy-Oriented Technology Assessment Across Europe: Expanding Capacities
Deficiencies in existing advisory systems
A lack of transparency in decision-making processes, and thus of public trust in and legitimacy of policy making, is reported in all countries. A strong need to improve the current situation of national policy advice is expressed in the Bulgarian and Portuguese reports with regard to the legitimacy and transparency of political decisions, as well as setting up missing communication channels between science, politics and the public. In most of the countries that were studied – for instance, Bulgaria – S&T expertise is typically provided internally by governmental staff at the respective ministries. On rare occasions, external expertise is asked for on an ad hoc basis, and even in these cases, the process remains opaque to the wider public (Kozarev, 2012: 42). Although a number of institutions often provide policy advice (for example, a formal advisory body of the government or other national councils) and although an occasional demand for scientific advice from the political sphere exists (for instance the government or parliamentary commissions), there seems to be no institutionalized or 'routinized' ways for constant policy advice. Rather, communication channels among scientists, policy makers and other potential knowledge providers are characterized as 'fragile and dependent on the continuous will of interacting between specific stakeholders' (Almeida, 2012: 235).
Even if processes are formally transparent, with relevant documents for decisions being publicly available and consultation with experts taking place, many interview partners experienced a lack of accountability. It appears that administrations act without taking the arguments of consultations (be they expert or public) into account. A certain level of distrust in governmental performance on the part of academics or other experts appears to be significant in many of the countries that were explored. In Central and Eastern European countries, this may be related to a great extent to the conflicting character of the ongoing and long-lasting political transition period from a non-democratic system to a democratic one. In Ireland, the reported lack of transparency and public involvement in R&I policy making may rather be rooted in a lack of cooperative traditions and the remaining authoritarian political culture clashing with the country's rather new and fast emergence as an R&I economy. Thus, apparently, the highly developed Irish system of advisory bodies and agencies has not yet opened up to the wider public and remains a closed deliberative circle of the executive branches of government and related expert communities.
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