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Governance of knowledge policies (ICPP, Milan, Italy)

Martina Vukasovic

The 2nd International Conference on Public Policy was held in Milan, 1-4 July 2015, on the premises Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. What was initially envisaged to be a three day conference, prolonged due to significant interest, gathered around 1300 participants from 63 countries, who presented and discussed approx. 1200 papers in 260 parallel sessions. In addition, 6 plenary sessions, including one focusing on the relationship between public policy and various disciplines (anthropology, economics, planning, political science, sociology, international relations, and philosophy). The conference was structured around 18 different topics, within which panels on particular issues were organized, sometimes including more than one paper session.

Jens Jungblut (photo credit: Mari Elken)

Jens Jungblut (photo credit: Mari Elken)

Concerning knowledge policies, they were the focus of four panels. ERA CRN network organized a panel on Governance of knowledge policies, structured around three elements and comprising nine papers: (1) discourse and ideas, (2) central organizations (i.e. universities or research institutes) and (3) groups and individuals within these central organizations (academic and research staff and students). In addition, panels focused on patterns and pathways of convergence and divergence in higher education, higher education policy in Asia and governance of higher education between historical roots and transnational convergence pressures.

Walter Ysebaert and Tatiana Fumasoli (photo credit: Mari Elken)

Walter Ysebaert and Tatiana Fumasoli (photo credit: Mari Elken)

Other panels of potential interest for those studying knowledge policies in multi-level multi-actor contexts included those focusing on defining policy problems, the work of policy analysts, horizontal policy coordination between different public policy sectors, global-local dynamic in public policy, global policy convergence, and multilevel implementation. Also, panels focused on advancing theoretical tools for analysing policy (e.g. Advocacy Coalition Framework or the Multiple Streams Framework, or discussing methods for policy analysis.

During the conference, the general assembly of the recently established International Public Policy Association was organized, focusing on strategic issues, relationships with existing networks and future events. The 3rd ICPP conference will take place in 2017, most likely in Singapore. In the meantime, those interested in public policy can consider participating in the 1st Regional Conference on Public Policy, 10-11 June 2016, in Hong Kong.

CFP: UACES CRN workshop on ‘The politics of knowledge: Europe and beyond’ (16-17 July 2015, Robinson College, Cambridge)

Workshop organisers:

Dr Meng-Hsuan Chou (NTU Singapore) – hsuan.chou [at]

Dr Julie Smith (Robinson College, University of Cambridge) – jes42 [at]

Mitchell Young (Charles University in Prague) – young.mitchell [at]


Workshop Aim

Knowledge policies are at the forefront of contemporary global politics. There is an accepted belief among policymakers that knowledge is the foundation on which societies coalesce and economies thrive. Indeed, the competition for knowledge can be said to be driving the global race for talent. For the second workshop of the UACES collaborative research network on the European Research Area, we invite contributions covering and going beyond Europe to examine the politics of knowledge policies around the world. This workshop is geared towards answering the following questions: What key themes should we address when we talk about the politics of knowledge policies? How and why are these themes crucial for our understanding of politics and policymaking in sectors such as higher education, research, and innovation?

We invite theoretical, empirical and comparative contributions that investigate the role of the ‘four I-s’ – ideas, interests, instruments and institutions – in the politics of knowledge policies. By role, we refer to the effects that ideas, actors (individual, organisational), policy instruments and institutions have had on the national, regional and global governance of knowledge policies, and vice versa. This focus on ‘roles’ is to enable a multidisciplinary discussion on whether these factors share defining characteristics across the different knowledge policy domains (research, higher education, innovation), between distinct governance levels, and within and across geographical regions.

Potential papers could explore a variety of themes. For instance, they may address how and why particular ideas (‘excellence’, ‘talent’, ‘21st century skills’, ‘knowledge-based’) find policy resonance around the world, while others fail to do so. Are some of the newly emerging ideas a repackaging of earlier ones and, if so, what accounts for their rise on the policy agenda? Papers may examine the configuration and re-configuration of actors from the public and private sectors in designing, shaping, implementing, promoting or blocking knowledge policy from above, below and through other governance channels. Contributions may investigate and compare the sets of policy instruments adopted to facilitate knowledge policy cooperation throughout the world’s different geographical regions. Here, for example, it would be interesting to identify whether there are standard sets of measures that bilateral or multilateral cooperation embrace for promoting collaboration in the knowledge policy sector. Papers may also assess the institutional set-ups introduced to facilitate knowledge policy cooperation, the mandates given and decisional powers delegated to these institutions, and the effects, if any, that these institutions have had over time.

This CRN continues to welcome scholars at all career stages, theoretical and methodological approaches to examining knowledge policy cooperation in Europe and around the world.

Workshop call for paper

We will provide accommodation, refreshments and meals for accepted presenters for the duration of the workshop. Applicants may propose more than one paper for consideration, but no one will be permitted to present or co-present more than one paper. We encourage student members of UACES to consider applying for travel funding (

Please contact any of the workshop organisers if you have any questions and please submit your proposal before the 13th of April 2015, 18.00 GMT at: 

Important Dates

13 April 2015 (18.00 GMT): extended abstract due

24 April 2015: acceptance notification

18 June 2015: workshop programme available

02 July 2015: full papers due

16-17 July 2015: workshop

Innovation policy mixes in the Baltic Sea Region

Anete Vītola

In my paper, “Innovation policy mix in a multi-level context: The case of the Baltic Sea Region countries”, I analyze how multi-level innovation policy mixes function in the six countries of the Baltic Sea Region – Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The paper summarizes findings of my PhD thesis research on characteristics of multi-level innovation policy mixes.


Multi-level innovation policy

The term ‘policy mix’ has become popular both among academics and policy makers. The thinking behind it emphasizes the need to plan, design, implement, evaluate and analyze policy, taking into account other policy fields and governance levels, since regional and supra-national governments increasingly consider innovation policy to be an important activity (Flanagan et al., 2011).

At the same time relations between national and regional governments (OECD, 2011) and the role of supra-national institutions is unclear. The interaction may lead to incoherence, overlapping or layering (Howlett, 2011) which is usually caused by lack of coordination (Peters and Savoie, 2000). These characteristics were not identified in this study (Vitola 2014). Interaction between policies can also be mutually reinforcing, but no strong evidence on such synergy has been found here.

Two extremes of policy mix characterization

The analysis of multi-level innovation policy mixes was performed with the help of qualitative content analysis of policy planning documents and in-depth interviews with innovation policy makers. Several elements of policy mixes such as policy rationales, aims, target groups, attitudes of policy makers towards other government levels and coordination mechanisms were compared between government levels. In my paper (Vitola, 2014), I compared the values of the aforementioned indicators or elements of policy mixes between government levels and explored whether the overlapping and synergy is evident or not. The study focused on the policy planning and implementation; therefore, the results cannot be used to evaluate the overlapping or synergy of the policy impacts. Research that compares impacts of innovation policies of different government levels has to be performed in the future because policy instruments are not always based in policy aims formulated by policy makers (Borras and Edquist, 2013).

The countries of the European Union are unique in terms of multi-level innovation policy mixes because only there supranational government level has its own agenda and policy in the field of innovation. Countries with well-developed regional innovation policies (such as Sweden, Denmark and Finland in this study) have the most complicated multi-level innovation policy mixes, due to three parallel government levels in one or other way targetting the same innovation system.

Policy mixes can have two extreme characteristics – the negative extreme is overlapping between the elements of the policy mix and the positive extreme is synergy between the elements of the policy mix. In the context of multi-level innovation policy mixes, overlapping can occur when the government levels which form the policy mix have very similar innovation policy rationales, aims, target groups, and the understanding of the role of each government level is not clear among the policy makers. Synergy between the elements of the policy mix, which requires good coordination, occurs when individual policies are designed and implemented in a way that considers other policies, for example, by planning consequent timing of policy programs or targeting different stages of company development life cycle or problems in the innovation system.

Despite the existence of multi-layered innovation policy mixes in the six cases analyzed, no significant overlapping between policies was identified. All elements of multi-level innovation policy mixes are specific at each government level and policy makers are well informed about the activities of other government levels and try to coordinate their policy programs. In the case of Nordic countries where three parallel government levels exist and overlapping was not identified, this might be partly explained with well-functioning public administration in these countries (Peters, 2001).

Towards more synergies?

At the same time, analyzed policy mixes are not characterized by synergy. Positive interactions and planned synergy between government levels is not evident. This is a topical issue for policy makers, for example, respondent from Sweden indicated: ‘The issue on how to improve interaction between regional, national and supra-national policy instruments, is very topical for us, but not resolved’.

The study shows that in the Baltic Sea Region, at least in the planning and implementation phases of policy, multi-level innovation policy mixes don’t have the negative side effect of overlapping. However, policy makers could do more to reinforce synergies between different levels of government. Further research on policy impacts in this multi-level context has to be performed to have a complete understanding on functioning of multi-level innovation policy mixes.

Anete Vītola has recently submitted her PhD thesis at the Political Science Department, University of Latvia. Her research interests include innovation policy in the Baltic Sea Region and European Union, and the role of government in supporting social innovation. From February 2015 she undertakes research on social innovation at the Advanced Social and Political Research Institute of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Latvia. Contact:


The entry has been initially posted on Europe of Knowledge blog.



Borras, S. and Edquist, C. (2013) “The choice of innovation policy instruments”, CIRCLE Electronic Working Papers, no. 2013/04. Lund, Sweden: CIRCLE, Lund University.

Flanagan, K., Uyarra, E. and Laranja, M. (2011) “Reconceptualising the policy mix for innovation”, Research Policy, 40: 702–13.

Howlett, M. (2011) “Designing Public Policies: Principles and Instruments”, pp. 50–3. London: Routledge.

OECD (2011) “Regional Innovation Policy”. Paris: OECD.

Peters, G.B. (2001) “The Politics of Bureaucracy”, p. 186. London: Routledge.

Peters, G.B. and Savoie, D. (2000) “Governance in the Twenty-first Century: Revitalizing the Public Service”. Montreal, Canada: McGill-Queens University Press.

Vitola, A. (2014) “Innovation policy mix in a multi-level context: The case of the Baltic Sea Region countries”. Science and Public Policy, published online 08.10.2014. doi: 10.1093/scipol/ scu059

CFP: Transnational actors in the multi-level governance of knowledge policies (ECPR 2015)

Panel title: Transnational actors in the multi-level governance of knowledge policies

  • Chair: Tatiana Fumasoli (
  • Co-discussants: Tatiana Fumasoli ( and Åse Gornitzka


Abstract: How does academia engage at the national, European and global levels to respond to the on-going pressures for excellence and relevance? This panel examines two sets of actors at the core of knowledge production and dissemination: academics and universities. Academics are professionals with multiple affiliations and loyalties, as they are embedded in higher education institutions and discipline-based communities; they strive to protect their academic freedom and control of their teaching and research activities (Freidson 2003). Universities have become increasingly relevant actors in the higher education and research fields, since reforms granting institutional autonomy have allowed them to position themselves strategically and affect the systemic level (Fumasoli and Huisman 2013).

We conceive of the ERA and the EHEA as a multi-layered system that provides opportunities for academics and universities to engage in different arenas across levels, in order to defend and lobby for their interests. The panel’s overall objective is to shed light on how such actors influence formulation and implementation of policies in higher education and research, how they contribute in the construction of the ERA and EHEA, more in general of the Europe of Knowledge.

We thus ask three distinct sets of questions:

  1. How do academics and universities take part in policy processes at European, national, regional and institutional level? What are the factors empowering and constraining them?
  2. What are the implications for ERA and EHEA of such engagement(s) at multiple levels? How is their governance impacted? How are specific policies and instruments affected?
  3. What are the consequences for national higher education and research? To what extent academics’ and universities’ strategic agency influences systemic integration at national and European levels?

To make sense of these dynamics we invite both conceptual and empirical papers that use, among others, multi-level governance (Marks 1996, Hooghe and Marks 2001, Piattoni 2010), networking governance (Gornitzka 2009), field theory  (Fligstein and McAdam 2012), and advocacy coalition (Sabatier 1998). Some relevant topics to elaborate upon are transnational interest groups, professional and disciplinary associations, strategic alliances (Fligstein 2008).


To propose a paper for this panel please contact Tatiana Fumasoli (

CFP: Governance of Knowledge Policies (ICPP 2015)

The International Conference on Public Policy (1-4 July 2015, Milan)

Session title: “Governance of Knowledge Policies”



  • Meng-Hsuan Chou, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (
  • Jens Jungblut, University of Oslo, Norway (
  • Pauline Ravinet, Université Lille 2, France (



Session abstract:

The governance of knowledge policies has now permeated all policy levels, from the local, national, regional to the global. These processes, however, are examined in disciplinary ‘silos’ – from science and higher education (policy) studies, international relations, comparative politics, and sociology to organisational studies. At the same time, they share at least three research foci, each one echoing stimulating debates within public policy research. Firstly, this panel demonstrates the added-value that studies of knowledge policies have for improving public policy understanding of (i) discourse and ideas. Specifically, questions concerning whether, how and why certain concepts such as excellence, globalism, regionalism, innovation, and so on, catalyse policy actors’ strategies, percolate into daily practices and how they are then weaved into the fabric of policies, organisations or systems. Knowledge policies constitute fascinating cases for scholars willing to “take ideas and discourse seriously” (Schmidt, 2010), studying policymaking after the “argumentative turn” (Fischer & Gottweis, 2012), or, from a different angle, wanting to explore the rational-choice argument that ideas are merely “hooks” for interests (Weingast, 1995).

Secondly, another research dimension on knowledge policies is to question how the dynamics of higher education, research and science have impacted (ii) the central organisations, i.e. universities and non-university research institutes, as well as the funding and regulatory agencies. This time, knowledge policies provide almost infinite cases to tackle the issue of interaction between policies and organisations – and therefore the connection between public policy research and organisational theory (Gornitzka, 1999). Seminal works in organisational sociology and implementation theory have all been fascinated by developments in higher education. For instance, Cohen, March & Olsen (1972) introduced ‘organised anarchy’ and the ‘garbage can model of decision-making’ to conceptualise processes of organisation within universities, while Cerych & Sabatier (1986) studied implementation of higher education in Europe. Their interest, especially on the role of ambiguity in policymaking, points to the potential that researching dynamics of knowledge policymaking has for addressing questions at the policy-organisation nexus.

Finally, there is also clear shared research interest in how such policy dynamics affect (iii) groups and individuals as “difficult” members (Mintzberg 1983) of such professional organisations, e.g. asking whether and how a potential “normalization” of universities (Brunsson & Sahlin-Andersson 2000; Musselin 2007) and their global differentiation/isomorphism clash with the normative foundations of science as a profession/vocation (Merton 1973; Weber 1946) or, even earlier, with the hitherto humanistic ideals of ‘socialising’ students by education.

This session invites researchers from across diverse disciplines to examine the multi-level governance of knowledge policies and politics, focusing on any of the above-mentioned dynamics as well as the role of actors in influencing them. We propose three sections – each addressing one of the three research foci identified above. All accepted papers must have a clear conceptual approach, preferably supported by empirical examples beyond a single case study.

To propose a paper for this session, please upload your abstract by 15th January 2015 HERE.

The abstract should include the research aim, the conceptual approach, the case(s) studied as well as potential methods and data. If you have any further questions, feel free to contact Meng-Hsuan Chou, Jens Jungblut, or Pauline Ravinet.

CFP: Regionalism from above, regionalism from below: multi-level governance of higher education and research (ECPR 2015)

Panel title: Regionalism from above, regionalism from below: multi-level governance of higher education and research

Abstract: Higher education and research policies appear as fascinating cases to explore the transformations of the role of the State in a globalized economy and society of knowledge. The now classical notion of multilevel-governance actually appears extremely useful to make sense of policy change in these domains.

Higher education and research policies have been transformed, with increasing governing power both to subnational and supranational structures. The elevating role of regions in higher education and research is mirrored by regional dynamics developing worldwide. As a result of regional integration on the one hand and devolution/federalization processes on the other, regions are playing an increasingly prominent role in contemporary global politics. The empirical case of knowledge-policy governance can thus contribute to the wider conceptual debate on territorial politics, regionalism and region-building.

How have States recomposed their role in the governance of knowledge policies in this context? Strands of literature on the world regions in the globalization of knowledge policies on the one hand and on the territorial politics of knowledge on the other, do not dialogue much together. This panel will propose to connect those works around the notion of regionalism, and open a discussion about how the rise of regions, both subnational and supranational, is a major feature of the transformations of knowledge policies. A particular attention will be dedicated to the circulation of actors and policy solutions between the subnational, national, and supranational levels.

Building on both empirical and theoretical perspectives the panel will explore the facets and implications of higher education regionalism in Europe and elsewhere highlighting the following issues: What are the regional territorial politics involved in the governance of knowledge policies? How does regionalism of higher education in Europe inform our understanding of international relations and of European foreign policy in particular? What are the features and implications of the higher education multi-level governance structure in Europe? How can the European case inform our understanding of other regions? How can the study of multi level governance of knowledge in other regions help us understand better the European situation ? How does the case of knowledge policies contribute to the conceptual understanding of regionalism?

To propose a paper for this panel please send an abstract of 500 – 1000 words until January 20th 2015 to Pauline Ravinet ( and Hannah Moscovitz (

CFP: Ideas in the global governance of knowledge (ECPR 2015)

Panel title: Ideas in the global governance of knowledge

Abstract: As the ECPR and the Europe of Knowledge section enter a new phase, this panel takes a reflective approach and invites contributions from around the world on the role of ideas in knowledge policy governance. Ideas are pervasive in all aspects of public policymaking at the national, regional and international levels. They act as deeply entrenched paradigmatic beliefs concerning how things should and ought to be done, as well as specific policy blueprints for resolving particular policy problems. Articulated through discourse and championed by ‘amplifiers’, ideas may chart the pathways of regional integration and international collaboration in unexpected ways. This panel invites contributions that explore the role that ideas play in regional and international research and higher education policy cooperation. By ‘role’, I refer to the independent or intervening effects that an idea – such as the ‘knowledge-based economy’, ‘world-class’, ‘regional hub’, the ‘Rise of Asia’ or the ‘Asian Century’, free movement of knowledge/fifth freedom, competitiveness, excellence, talent, internationalisation, ‘digital revolution’, ‘Single Market of Knowledge’ and so on – have had on the regional or global governance of knowledge policies. Papers in this panel are invited to address any of these questions: What are the prominent ideas in the international governance of knowledge policies (higher education, science and research) and how have they determined the evolution of the latter’s development? Are there visible national, regional or transnational champions of certain ideas and what strategies do they apply to promote them? Also, to what extent have these ideational champions collaborated with one another or do they work in isolation? How have ideas been translated into national or regional research and higher education policies? Could we identify a consistent discourse or policy frame associated with these ideas? Similarly, could we detect an emergent actor constellation opposing the promoted ideas? And, if so, what are the alternative discourses or policy frames and to what extent have they been successful?

To propose a paper for this panel please send an abstract of 500 – 1000 words until January 20th 2015 to Meng-Hsuan Chou ( The abstract should include the research aim, the conceptual approach, the case(s) studied as well as potential methods and data. The panel chair will then assess the proposals until January 30th 2015 and propose the panel en bloc to the section chairs. If you have any further questions, feel free to contact Meng-Hsuan Chou.