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A Crisis of Expertise? Legitimacy and the challenge of policymaking

15th February 2018 @ 9:30 am - 16th February 2018 @ 3:30 pm


STEPS Co-Director Andy Stirling  will deliver the Keynote address on the final day of The 2018 Melbourne School of Government’s conference, talking about expertise and democracy: from adversarial crisis to mutualistic renewal.


The economic, social and environmental governance challenges facing contemporary societies are growing in severity, scope and complexity; yet trust in experts and established institutions is in decline. The role and legitimacy of expertise in policymaking is increasingly being called into question.

Recently, populist and anti-globalisation movements in a number of countries, and on both ‘right’ and ‘left’, have achieved electoral success, in part by playing on these doubts and by rejecting the claims of experts to specialised knowledge and authority. These sentiments are even evident among many mainstream politicians. ‘People in this country have had enough of experts’ was the view of leading UK politician Michael Gove in 2016. US President Donald Trump has called global warming ‘bullshit’ and a ‘Chinese hoax’. In Australia we have seen some parliamentarians assert that vaccination causes autism, or that climate change is a fabrication, despite strong evidence to the contrary. We have seen a special commissioner appointed to investigate ‘Wind Turbine Syndrome’ despite no expert believing such a syndrome exists.

It is time to think anew, and self-critically, about our assumptions regarding experts and expertise. In this two-day conference our focus is on policymaking which is controversial, contested and complex; which is sociotechnical and not simply technical or purely scientific. In particular, we will explore three themes and how they manifest in practical policymaking.



Professor Andy Stirling, Professor Sheila Jasanoff, Professor Robyn Eckersley, Professor Lars Coenen,


15th February 2018 @ 9:30 am
16th February 2018 @ 3:30 pm
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Forum Theatre, Level 1, Arts West The University of Melbourne, Parkville campus
Forum Theatre, Level 1, Arts West The University of Melbourne, Parkville campus
Melbourne, Australia
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