Today, governments require a wide range of expert knowledge to make informed decisions. Yet, in some cases knowledge is deeply contested with political opponents marshaling different evidence to support their competing agendas. In other cases interests may commit to a desired course of action that is completely independent of scientific evidence. In such contexts it is imperative for governments to have institutions in place with a mission to provide effective advice, rather than to advocate for a specific course of action. Such institutions are all too rare, meaning that policy makers may find themselves taking decisions without the benefit quality advice. This talk discusses the various roles that advisory bodies might take, focusing on real-world examples of shortfalls and successes. The talk underscores the importance of leadership – both political and scientific – in creating a "safe space" for the proffering of advice, independent from advocacy for a particular course of action.
Scientific policy advice is of transgressive character (Nowotny): the questions posed to experts usually go beyond their specific scientific knowledge. In the "digital society", this phenomenon is aggravated by techno-social conditions and consequences of enormous complexity. First, the development trends of hardware, software, platforms, protocols and standards interfere with each other. Second, this interference causes demand for action cutting across traditional areas of policymaking. Third, scientific policy advice has started to be enriched by digital procedures. Some signs of it are: better access and higher instantaneousness, new speaker roles, e.g. internet activists, indirect intervention by development of technical infrastructure for expertise participation. In the digital era, do scientists as policy advisers finally yield acknowledgement and institutional reality as "dilettante experts"?
In spite of all criticism, the resistance against quantitative performance measures is based on futile arguments. However, blind belief in the technology of numbers is as misplaced as its outright rejection that does not recognize the strength of social change driving it. Instead, I will argue in favor of the pragmatists' role of engineering.
The boom of evaluations has its downside. Evaluation has become a term of daily use, denoting anything as soon as someone valuates, assesses or rates something. Feedback on mattress quality in hotels and worldwide measuring of pupils' performance: everything is evaluation. Everything evaluation? We need standards in order to judge the quality and professionality of evaluation as a step to fuel further professionalization. The Society for Evaluation is prepared to support this development.
The German Council for Science and Humanities is the institutionalized model of policy advice that is characterized by discursive exchange of professional knowledge of actors from science, politics and state administration. Given that the Council has existed for 60 years, this model has no doubt its advantages. During the talk it will be discussed what are the conditions for this success and which role scientific knowledge, i.e. the results of science and higher education studies could and should play for the Council's advisory function.
Celebratory evening December 7, 2015: 10 years of science studies at the iFQ (by invitation only)
Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Section 2: Between Legitimation and Intervention: Quality assuring actors in different policy fields
The Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care is an independent entity institutionalized by Book V of the German Social Welfare Code where also its tasks and duties are indicated. The institute is part of the autonomous governance of health care and run by the Federal Joint Committee (G-BA) in form of a private foundation. Central tasks are the evaluation of medical interventions and procedures and the provision of evidence-based and understandable information for citizens. In doing so, the institute is committed to patients' interests which creates tension vis-à-vis commercial interests.
Development cooperation interventions are characterized by decades of experience in evaluation and scientific policy advice on the international level. At the same time the policy field has been subject to drastic changes in the past years, also leading to new expectations in evaluation. Against this background, relevant trends in the policy field will be sketched. The DEval Institute is an institutional innovation not only in German development cooperation but also in the evaluation landscape. Its key institutional, procedural and scientific potentials and challenges will be addressed.
Research on vocational training is focused on professional practice. Researchers, politicians and practitioners are engaged in a continuous dialogue, in particular regarding evolution of topics and transfer, which needs to be taken account of by research. Hence it is of high importance to clarify the roles of all involved parties, to differentiate research from development and advice, and to ensure the independence of research.
Scientific measurement and indicators derived therefrom do not automatically influence policy making in a rational manner. Indicators can remain ineffective or even be harmful if neither the scientific nor the political environment is prepared for adequate use. On the side of science, a scientific community is required that does not only calculate and publish indicators but also uses such indicators or data sources for causal analyses. There is need for high-ranking institutions such as scientific academies to ensure scientific quality and help avoiding exaggerated interpretation. On the policy side, necessary conditions for rational consultations are knowledge to interprete indicators and scientific analyses (that are often less compelling than claimed) as well as the political commitment to actually feed indicators and scientific results into policy making in a serious way. Independent advisory bodies may support such commitment and a rational public debate.
Higher Education and Research Policy: Research Contributions within the German Centre for Research on Higher Education and Science Studies (Deutsches Zentrum für Hochschul- und Wissenschaftsforschung DZHW)
Globalization, internationalization, technological competition and demographic change attach a particular relevance to tertiary education and competitive research. It is the task of higher education and science studies, in exchange with researchers, to define and co-create conditions and the agenda of publicly financed research. Higher education and science studies must provide and analyze data on the development of higher education and research in national and international comparison. It should be judged against societal goals of sustainable, i.e. fair and resource-minded development. The results are an input element for evaluating political decisions on research and higher education.
Evaluation has become a ubiquitous practice in scientific research. Both researchers and managers have to evaluate on a permanent basis. This is the result of both the growth in size and complexity of the scientific and scholarly system. But it is also the expression of the crisis in the way we currently manage this valuable social institution. Science is in a fundamental transition which affects all aspects of its functioning: funding, publishing, evaluation, instrumentation and information, and its career structure. In this talk I will discuss this fundamental crisis and explore how quality research may play crucial roles in helping to develop a socially sensitive yet scientifically robust system of knowledge creation which is better suited to the challenges of the future than the current system is.