Thesis subject

Evaluation of Science Advice for the Covid-19 Emergency in the Netherlands

Around the world, national-level science advisory processes play an increasingly prominent role in the structuring of government policy. The Covid-19 pandemic emergency provides a truly global test of these processes. In order to learn from (still) evolving experience, an international project has been set up to analyse the role of science advisory processes in national-level decision-making. When the virus arrived in the Netherlands, an Outbreak Management Team (OMT) was formed to support government policy. Initially only known by its acronym, the media and the public asked for openness and several OMT members became public figures. As the pandemic progressed, other scientists increasingly questioned particular OMT advice and its knowledge base, leading to a shadow advisory process by the so-called Red Team. As a result, scientific advice about the Covid-19 pandemic and the interaction between science and policy are openly questioned and discussed on an almost daily basis.

The study is part of the international project Evaluation of Science Advice in a Pandemic Emergency (EScAPE). The national case studies follow a common evaluative framework to assess the strengths and weaknesses of science advisory processes in national-level public health decision making in the pandemic. The work consists of studying policy documents, analysis of the public debate and interviews, using primarily qualitative methods, in line with the common evaluative framework. Research questions include: What (formal and informal) advisory processes were created? Who did what, when and with what effect? Where the expectations of science advice realised, and if not, why not? Using the Honest Broker framework how can the roles of played by official and informal scientific advisors and mechanisms be characterised (pure scientist, science arbiter, issue advocate, honest broker of policy options)?

For the Dutch case study, we are looking for a Master student from one of the following programmes: Communication, Health and Life Sciences; International Development Studies; Development and Rural Innovation or a student from another programme with relevant background in social science courses and qualitative research skills.