Scientific Advisory Committees at the World Health Organization: A Qualitative Study of How Their Design Affects Quality, Relevance, and Legitimacy.
ABSTRACT: Governments and international organizations frequently convene scientific advisory committees (SACs) to support decision-making with scientific advice. In this study, thematic analysis of interviews with 35 senior WHO staff identified five main themes characterizing WHO's experience with designing SACs to ensure quality, relevance, and legitimacy of scientific advice. First, in addition to technical matters, SACs are established to serve broader strategic objectives, including consensus building to promote high-level political messages. Second, for SACs to be fully independent, they must have autonomy from the institutions convening or funding them, from the institutions from where SAC members are recruited, and from the institutions to whom the advice is directed. Third, since choices affecting quality, relevance, and legitimacy are closely linked, designing SACs often require trade-offs among these three attributes. Fourth, staff supporting SACs need to balance between safeguarding SACs from external influence and being receptive to the external political environment. Fifth, the design of SACs need to balance the involvement of stakeholders with the power to act on recommendations against the need to protect the independence and integrity of the scientific process. Overall, this study highlights key choices conveners of SACs must make when seeking to promote quality, relevance, and legitimacy of scientific advice.
Project description:Online Voting Advice Applications (VAAs) are survey-like instruments that help citizens to shape their political preferences and compare them with those of political parties. Especially in multi-party democracies, their increasing popularity indicates that VAAs play an important role in opinion formation for citizens, as well as in the public debate prior to elections. Hence, the objectivity and transparency of VAAs are crucial. In the design of VAAs, many choices have to be made. Extant research in survey methodology shows that the seemingly arbitrary choice to word questions positively (e.g., 'The city council should allow cars into the city centre') or negatively ('The city council should ban cars from the city centre') systematically affects the answers. This asymmetry in answers is in line with work on negativity bias in other areas of linguistics and psychology. Building on these findings, this study investigated whether question polarity also affects the answers to VAA statements. In a field experiment (N = 31,112) during the Dutch municipal elections we analysed the effects of polarity for 16 out of 30 VAA statements with a large variety of linguistic contrasts. Analyses show a significant effect of question wording for questions containing a wide range of implicit negations (such as 'forbid' vs. 'allow'), as well as for questions with explicit negations (e.g., 'not'). These effects of question polarity are found especially for VAA users with lower levels of political sophistication. As these citizens are an important target group for Voting Advice Applications, this stresses the need for VAA builders to be sensitive to wording choices when designing VAAs. This study is the first to show such consistent wording effects not only for political attitude questions with implicit negations in VAAs, but also for political questions containing explicit negations.
Project description:Changing institutions is an integral part of an academic life. Yet little is known about the mobility patterns of scientists at an institutional level and how these career choices affect scientific outcomes. Here, we examine over 420,000 papers, to track the affiliation information of individual scientists, allowing us to reconstruct their career trajectories over decades. We find that career movements are not only temporally and spatially localized, but also characterized by a high degree of stratification in institutional ranking. When cross-group movement occurs, we find that while going from elite to lower-rank institutions on average associates with modest decrease in scientific performance, transitioning into elite institutions does not result in subsequent performance gain. These results offer empirical evidence on institutional level career choices and movements and have potential implications for science policy.
Project description:Legitimacy is widely regarded as a founding principle of 'good' and effective governance, yet despite intense academic debate and policy discourse, the concept remains conceptually confusing and poorly articulated in practice. To bridge this gap, this research performed an interpretive thematic analysis of academic scholarship across public administration, public policy, law, political science, and geography. Four core themes were identified in relation to representative deliberation, procedural and distributive equity and justice, and socio-political acceptability, with numerous sub-themes therein. In an attempt to clarify conceptual confusion, this paper grounds these theoretical debates in the context of flood risk governance where numerous legitimacy dilemmas exist. A number of questions are presented as conceptual 'signposts' to encourage reflexive governance in the future. Thus, more broadly, we assert the importance of bringing legitimacy to the forefront of contemporary flood risk governance discourse and practice, moving beyond the realm of academic reflection.
Project description:Political participation and citizens' perceptions of the legitimacy and fairness of government are central components of democracy. In this article, we examine one possible threat to these markers of a just political system: family member incarceration. We offer a unique glimpse into the broader social consequences of punishment that are brought on by a partner's or parent's incarceration. We argue that the criminal justice system serves as an important institution for political socialization for the families of those imprisoned, affecting their attitudes and orientations toward the government and their will and capacity to become involved in political life. We draw from ethnographic data collected by one of the authors, quantitative data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, and interviews with recently released male prisoners and their female partners. Our findings suggest that experiences of a family member's incarceration complicate perceptions of government legitimacy and fairness and serve as a barrier to civic participation.
Project description:We present four datasets from a project examining the role of politics in social psychological research. These include thousands of independent raters who coded scientific abstracts for political relevance and for whether conservatives or liberals were treated as targets of explanation and characterized in a negative light. Further included are predictions about the empirical results by scientists participating in a forecasting survey, and coded publication outcomes for unpublished research projects varying in political overtones. Future researchers can leverage this corpus to test further hypotheses regarding political values and scientific research, perceptions of political bias, publication histories, and forecasting accuracy.
Project description:This paper studies the political and social impacts of increased education by utilizing a randomized girls' merit scholarship programme in Kenya that raised test scores and secondary schooling. Consistent with the view that education empowers the disadvantaged to challenge authority, we find that the programme reduced the acceptance of domestic violence and political authority. Young women in programme schools also increased their objective political knowledge. We find that this rejection of the status quo did not translate into greater perceived political efficacy, community participation or voting intentions. Instead, there is suggestive evidence that the perceived legitimacy of political violence increased.
Project description:Background:Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) in health and social care research has been shown to improve the quality and relevance of research. PPI in data linkage research is important in ensuring the legitimacy of future health informatics initiatives, but remains sparse and under-developed. This article describes the setting up and evaluation of a service user and carer advisory group with the aim of providing feedback and advice to researchers developing or making use of database linkages in the field of mental health. Aim:The aim of this study is to describe the creation and formative evaluation of the service user and carer advisory group after a trial period of 12?months. Method:Six individuals were recruited to the group all of whom had personal experience of mental illness. A formative evaluation was conducted after a trial period of 12?months. Results:Evaluation revealed that the group succeeded in promoting dialogue between service users/carers and researchers. Factors that contributed to the success of the group's first year included the opportunity it provided for researchers to involve service users and carers in their projects, the training provided to group members, and the openness of researchers to receiving feedback from the group. Conclusion:The group encourages the incorporation of PPI in data linkage research which helps to ensure the legitimacy of data linkage practices and governance systems whilst also improving the quality and relevance of the research being conducted using linked data.
Project description:A quantitative characterization of the scale-dependent features of research units may provide important insight into how such units are organized and how they grow. The relative importance of top-down versus bottom-up controls on their growth may be revealed by their scaling properties. Here we show that the number of support staff in Scandinavian research units, ranging in size from 20 to 7,800 staff members, is related to the number of academic staff by a power law. The scaling exponent of approximately 1.30 is broadly consistent with a simple hierarchical model of the university organization. Similar scaling behavior between small and large research units with a wide range of ambitions and strategies argues against top-down control of the growth. Top-down effects, and externally imposed effects from changing political environments, can be observed as fluctuations around the main trend. The observed scaling law implies that cost-benefit arguments for merging research institutions into larger and larger units may have limited validity unless the productivity per academic staff and/or the quality of the products are considerably higher in larger institutions. Despite the hierarchical structure of most large-scale research units in Europe, the network structures represented by the academic component of such units are strongly antihierarchical and suboptimal for efficient communication within individual units.
Project description:OBJECTIVE:To identify how public contributors established their legitimacy in the functioning of a patient and public involvement programme at a health network. DESIGN:A longitudinal case study with three embedded units (projects) involving public contributors. Interviews (n=24), observations (n=27) and documentary data collection occurred over 16 months. SETTING:The West of England Academic Health Science Network (WEAHSN), 1 of 15 regional AHSNs in England. PARTICIPANTS:Interviews were conducted with public contributors (n=5) and professionals (n=19) who were staff from the WEAHSN, its member organisations and its partners. RESULTS:Public contributors established their legitimacy by using nine distinct roles: (1) lived experience, as a patient or carer; (2) occupational knowledge, offering job-related expertise; (3) occupational skills, offering aptitude developed through employment; (4) patient advocate, promoting the interests of patients; (5) keeper of the public purse, encouraging wise spending; (6) intuitive public, piloting materials suitable for the general public; (7) fresh-eyed reviewer, critiquing materials; (8) critical friend, critiquing progress and proposing new initiatives and (9) boundary spanner, urging professionals to work across organisations. Individual public contributors occupied many, but not all, of the roles. CONCLUSIONS:Lived experience is only one of nine distinct public contributor roles. The WEAHSN provided a benign context for the study because in a health network public contributors are one of many parties seeking to establish legitimacy through finding valuable roles. The nine roles can be organised into a typology according to whether the basis for legitimacy lies in: the public contributor's knowledge, skills and experience; citizenship through the aspiration to achieve a broad public good; or being an outsider. The typology shows how public contributors can be involved in work where lived experience appears to lack relevance: strategic decision making; research unconnected to particular conditions; or acute service delivery.
Project description:International institutions provide well over US$10 billion in development assistance for health (DAH) annually and between 1990 and 2014, DAH disbursements totaled $458 billion but how do they decide who gets what, and for what purpose? In this article, we explore how allocation decisions were made by the nine convening agencies of the Equitable Access Initiative. We provide clear, plain language descriptions of the complete process from resource mobilization to allocation for the nine multilateral agencies with prominent agendas in global health. Then, through a comparative analysis we illuminate the choices and strategies employed in the nine international institutions. We find that resource allocation in all reviewed institutions follow a similar pattern, which we categorized in a framework of five steps: strategy definition, resource mobilization, eligibility of countries, support type and funds allocation. All the reviewed institutions generate resource allocation decisions through well-structured and fairly complex processes. Variations in those processes seem to reflect differences in institutional principles and goals. However, these processes have serious shortcomings. Technical problems include inadequate flexibility to account for or meet country needs. Although aid effectiveness and value for money are commonly referenced, we find that neither performance nor impact is a major criterion for allocating resources. We found very little formal consideration of the incentives generated by allocation choices. Political issues include non-transparent influence on allocation processes by donors and bureaucrats, and the common practice of earmarking funds to bypass the normal allocation process entirely. Ethical deficiencies include low accountability and transparency at international institutions, and limited participation by affected citizens or their representatives. We find that recipient countries have low influence on allocation processes themselves, although within these processes they have some influence in relatively narrow areas.