Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series in Economics and Institutions of Innovation,
Royal Institute of Technology, CESIS - Centre of Excellence for Science and Innovation Studies

No 441: Knowledge transfer at the science-policy interface: How cognitive distance and the degree of expert autonomy shapes the outcome

Anders Broström () and Maureen McKelvey
Additional contact information
Anders Broström: CESIS - Centre of Excellence for Science and Innovation Studies, Royal Institute of Technology
Maureen McKelvey: Institute of Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Department of Economy & Society, School of Business, Economics and Law, University of Gothenburg.

Abstract: This paper analyzes the conditions for successful knowledge transfer between the spheres of science and public policy. It does so by focusing upon the science-policy interface, specifically the processes of direct interaction between scientists and scientifically trained experts on the one hand and agents of policy-making organizations on the other. The paper defines two dimensions – cognitive distance and expert autonomy – which are argued to influence knowledge exchange, in such a way as to shape the outcome. A case study on the implementation of congestion charges in Stockholm, Sweden illustrates how the proposed framework pinpoints three central issues for understanding these processes: 1) differentiating the roles of e.g. a science-based consultancy firm and an academic environment in policy formation; 2) examining the fit between the organizational form of the science-policy interface and the intended goals; and 3) increasing our understanding of when policy makers themselves need to develop scientific competence in order to interact effectively with scientific experts.

Keywords: organizational learning; science-based policy; evidence-based policy; interaction; cognitive distance; congestion charges

JEL-codes: A14; R41

24 pages, June 2, 2016

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