We recently moved our readers to a new system. You may need to reset your password here to login.
Not a member ? Join here for free.
Forgot your password?
Home Features Moses and The West Wing: can academics help make policy?
Text size :
TAGS Public policy, science, Crawford School of Economics and Government, academics, Policy
Do academics and bureaucrats mix? Their shared motivations — and goal differences — are important to the policymaking process, according to the boss of Australia’s peak science body.
There are a few fully-fledged fantasies about the way academics give policy advice to government. Let’s look at two: the Moses and The West Wing models.
In our Moses scenario parliamentarians sit — like students — waiting to be nourished with knowledge only the professor can provide. The professor hands down the tablet of wisdom, and the students depart to spread the word through reinvigorated public policy.
In The West Wing model, the president, faced with a wicked problem, calls on his old Harvard pal to solve it. Said professor swoops in, applies his mind to the issues at hand and, despite a few ethically challenging moments and bit of high drama, saves the day.
These are deliberate simplifications but they touch some truths — and probably more prejudices — held by both academics and bureaucrats.
Receive unlimited access, get all the latest public sector news and features, plus The Juice, our daily news update sent direct to your inbox.
The Mandarin is where Australia's public sector leaders discuss their work and the issues faced within modern bureaucracy. Join today to discover the latest in public administration thinking and news from our dedicated reporters, current and former agency heads and senior executives.
Catriona Jackson is CEO of the peak body Science & Technology Australia. She has a 28-year history in government, media and strategic communications and has worked as a senior adviser to the federal government.
Read Related Content
Most watchers of government might have suspected that restructures and redundancies were used to quietly get rid of the worst performers. Some have seen it first hand. Now, it's official.
Pingback: Moses and The West Wing | scienceandtechnologyaustralia.org.au()
A government department that doesn’t have academics, business leaders, NGOs etc as major stakeholders is doomed in todays interconnected world. No one body or person holds the unique answer to all questions. Internet/external communication and discussion about policy leads to quality outputs that serve more than the political masters. Therein lies the rub of the matter. How brave are those in power and public office to share knowledge on policy direction in order to achieve the best results for the tax payer and the country.
Evidence-based policy has gone out of fashion. The new paradigm is PS reacting to thought bubbles from Ministers and their offices. OK, that’s an exaggeration, but seeking advice from real experts seems to be rare these days.
Also important that academics seek out opportunities to work with government rather than wait for government to come to them. (Saw a sad example of this with a former Chief Scientist who, in the interests of maintaining ‘independence’ from gov’t, set up office in an ivory tower then complained that the PM and Ministers hadn’t come calling.)