Knowledge, Epistemic Communities and Agenda-Setting
Dunlop, Claire A.
Reason for embargo
Knowledge is a key commodity in agenda-setting. Knowledge underpins the new understandings that can play a central role in the (re)framing issues – old and new – enabling actors to operate in Schattschneiderian (1960) ways expanding and contracting issues by using epistemic goods to define the alternatives that matter. To understand the power of knowledge as an institution, political scientists frequently take the producers – epistemic communities – as the key unit of analysis. After all, “ideas would be sterile without carriers” (Haas 1992a, p. 27). Epistemic communities is an analytical framework, first developed in the International Relations (IR) literature, which has flourished in the last two decades in governance and public policy literatures (Dunlop, 2013 for recent bibliographic review). These expert enclaves’ power in policymaking resides in their claims to authoritative knowledge. In the information-dense policy world, where bounded rationality (Simon, 1957) prevents policy actors from attending to inputs in proportionate ways (Jones and Baumgartner, 2005), epistemic communities can be thought of as ‘special framers’. They produce robust and consensual knowledge, often on an international scale, and so have the ability and credentials to guide powerful actors through the epistemic forest. In short, they help policy actors learn. The frames they use to fuel learning and foster particular interpretations of an issue are epistemic communities’ key resource. The authority that underpins those frames sets them apart from other interest-based policy actors or structural forces.
in Zahariadis N (eds) Handbook of Public Policy Agenda-Setting, Edward Elgar, 2016