Reforming scientific advisory bodies
TWCF Number
Project Duration
May 1 / 2022
- August 30 / 2024
Core Funding Area
Other Charitable Purposes
North America
Amount Awarded

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Roger Koppl
Institution Syracuse University

The quality of scientific advice influences policy and the wellbeing of citizens. The global COVID pandemic has exposed inefficiencies and problems associated with scientific advisory boards who are tasked with providing timely information to the public. At the same time, economics and other social sciences have shown that an organization’s procedures and governance significantly influence its performance. A comparative empirical study from a team led by Roger Koppl and Maria Minniti at Syracuse University Martin J. Whitman School of Management aims to develop a set of principles for the organization and governance of the scientific advisory bodies that inform governments in different social and political contexts. The goal of the project is to establish design principles and mechanisms that will foster and preserve the wellbeing of citizens by improving the advice of scientific advisory bodies.

Extensive archival research will allow the team to build a comparative-institutional database covering the US, the UK, Uganda, Sweden, and Italy. This comparative-institutional study will consider a broad set of potentially innovative institutional possibilities. The database will cover both the administrative organization of scientific advice and its social and political context, such as the degree to which public health decisions are concentrated in an administrative center. 

The team’s leading hypothesis is that broad governance of official scientific advisory bodies tends to prevent tunnel vision and narrow focus. If potential members of the advisory body must be vetted by the legislature, it is less likely that a narrow group such as the Prime Minister’s government or the civil-service elite will intentionally or unintentionally stuff the advisory body with “toadies” and ideologues having preformulated opinions agreeable to them. Instead, a broader set of views and disciplines will be represented, obliging the advisory body to consider and debate a broader array of issues and a richer set of policy possibilities. The best way to achieve such broad governance will vary from country to country. 

The study’s outputs will be publications in scholarly and popular press that explain what works and what doesn’t. It is hoped that any country that applies the design principles will have better pandemic policy and, therefore, better public health.

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