Research Topic

The Politics of Expertise: Understanding Interactions between Policy Advice, Government, and Outcomes during the Covid-19 Pandemic

About this Research Topic

The Covid-19 pandemic brought to the fore the deeply contentious politics of expertise. Until recently, popular discontent with technocratic elites and attacks by populist politicians significantly undermined the trust in experts as many were seen as elitist establishment figures. The pandemic notably ...

The Covid-19 pandemic brought to the fore the deeply contentious politics of expertise. Until recently, popular discontent with technocratic elites and attacks by populist politicians significantly undermined the trust in experts as many were seen as elitist establishment figures. The pandemic notably reversed this trend. The need for sound scientific advice became painfully obvious. Yet, government reliance on expert advice has varied greatly. Some governments heavily drew on epidemiologists, virologists, ecologists, economists, and other disciplinary experts. Other governments ignored or even marginalized them. Furthermore, the pandemic exposed naïve beliefs in the existence of consensus among experts. While some divergences owed to modelling choices, others were due to the politicization of science by various groups employing favoured models to advance their agenda. Moreover, the crisis highlighted the long-standing tensions between technocracy and democracy. Finally, a large variation in the quality of expert advice became apparent largely after the exponential growth of pseudo-experts, Covid-19 influencers and “armchair epidemiologists” – who managed to mislead millions of people.

This Research Topic aims to provide one of the first systematic empirical investigations of the politics of expertise during the Covid-19 pandemic. Pandemics are rare events. Yet we cannot overstate the unprecedented opportunities they can present for getting insight into critical factors that may lie dormant during “normal times” but have tremendous effects once they act. Furthermore, understanding when and how governments solicit and constructively engage sound scientific advice is crucial in preparing for other probable pandemics. While our conclusions are bound to be tentative as the pandemic is still unfolding, we can capitalize on – and add to – the growing multi-disciplinary body of knowledge on technocratic governance, populism, the politics of policy advice, health system sustainability, outbreak management, and international cooperation across political science, public administration, public health, economics, sociology, international relations, and meta-research.

We invite contributions that address this topic along the lines of three sets of broad questions;

1. When did governments listen to experts? Specifically, under what conditions did governments around the world demonstrate openness in soliciting, competence in managing, and effectiveness in channelling expert policy advice on Covid-19 and its socioeconomic impacts?

2. Under what conditions had expert advice been conducive – or not – for effective government response in tackling the Covid-19 crisis and its socioeconomic effects? How much did this depend on who was listened to? Who were these “experts”? How much did the usefulness of their input depend on the composition, structure, institutions, and quality of the government? When did experts facilitate or when did they delay decision-making? What role did other societal actors play in the context of interactions between governments and experts?

3. What can we learn from these interactions about the origins, politics and effectiveness of expert advice in tackling similar changes and beyond?

We aim for a worldwide coverage of these topics. We are especially interested in the following article types accepted by the journal: Original Research, Methods, Policy and Practice Review, Hypothesis and Theory, Data Report, Policy Brief, and Brief Research Report. We particularly welcome articles that present in-depth, comparative, and interdisciplinary takes on the issue, qualitative and quantitative alike.


Keywords: Covid-19, Technocracy, Expert Advice, Policy, Democracy, Trust


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

30 November 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

30 November 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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