John A. Hird

Interim Dean, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

 
 

My work in helping to connect the world of expertise to policymaking is motivated by trying to improve upon processes exemplified by the following reflection:

I think it’s vital to de-professionalize the public debate on matters that vitally affect the lives of ordinary people. It’s time to snatch our futures back from the ‘experts’. . . . Frankly, however trenchantly, however angrily, however combatively one puts forward one’s case, at the end of the day, I’m only a citizen, one of many, who is demanding public information, asking for a public explanation. I have no axe to grind. I have no professional stakes to protect. I’m prepared to be persuaded. I’m prepared to change my mind. But instead of an argument, or an explanation, or a disputing of facts, one gets insults, invective, legal threats, and the Expert’s Anthem: “You’re too emotional. You don’t understand, and it’s too complicated to explain.” The subtext, of course, is: Don’t worry your little head about it. Go and play with your toys. Leave the real world to us. (Arundhati Roy, Power Politics. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2001, pp. 24-5)

Improving the relationship between expertise and policymaking is important not just for better policymaking but for better democracy.

Contact Information

Interim Dean, College of Social & Behavioral Sciences

Professor of Political Science and Public Policy

230 Draper Hall - 40 Campus Center Way

University of Massachusetts Amherst

Amherst, MA, 01003 USA

Phone: 413.545.7187

Fax: 413.545.3349

Email: jhird@sbs.umass.edu