Expertise, Decision-Making and Public Debate

This axis examines the evolving notion of the expert and the agents involved in the production of expertise, as well as their contingent and disputed status in public discussion. The relationship between science and policy are structured by epistemic inequalities between actors, but the modalities of this structuration are the subject of lively controversy.

CIRTS’s projects will specify the different facets of the expert and the various "politics of expertise", revealing the structural changes that alter the public uses of expert knowledge.


Major research themes


The study of the experts themselves, that is to say, those who claim to supply expert knowledge for public debate and political decision-making through the production of:

1.1.1 A political and epistemic portrait of non-academic providers of expertise such as think-tanks, central banks, review boards and bureaux of statistics.

1.1.2 A socio-political history of the changing role of two specific forms of expert knowledge : statistics and economics (including financial economics), whose technical character has increased over time thus transforming their public role and their relationship to policy-making. This component compares both different national systems and different historical periods that have fostered liberal, fascist and communist political environments.

Researchers:  J.-P. Beaud, F. Claveau, P. Doray, T. Düppe, F. Jovanovic, R. Leonard, S. Moulin, F.-X. Olleros, J.-G. Prévost


The analysis of the public uses of expertise.

1.2.1 The study of the uses of expert knowledge by lay actors (citizens, policy makers, media, lobbies) in the process of political decision-making or in the public sphere.

1.2.2    The identification of the factors that determine the true weight of expert opinion in public debate and decision-making, including the impact of information technologies (data circulation, participation tools) on the framing of public debate and citizen participation in decision-making processes based on expertise.

Researchers: Y. Gingras, E. Lachapelle, F. Millerand, E. Montpetit, V. Larivière


Defining ways of assessing the reliability of expert knowledge.

Increased citizen participation in the political regulation of technology requires the design of modes of participation, co-construction and collaborative practices. The definition of these modalities involves:

1.3.1    The formulation of normative criteria of validity in order to provide the public and policy-makers with the epistemological tools with which the claims of expert and organizations claiming expertise can be examined. These criteria will also provide an analytical framework with which to understand the legitimate or illegitimate roles played by values and other forms of bias in the production and reception of expert knowledge.

1.3.2    The formulation of good practices in terms of participation in expert debates with regards to both the expected behavior of experts and the structures that favor the peaceful cohabitation of different kinds and levels of expertise.

Researchers: F. Bouchard, F. Claveau, A. Corriveau-Dussault, L. Faucher, V. Guillin, L. Heaton, E. Lachapelle, F. Millerand, E. Montpetit

Updated 15 February 2017 at 10 h 21 min.