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Assessing the ‘forgotten fundamental’ in policy advisory systems research: Policy shops and the role(s) of core policy professionals

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posted on 2023-08-25, 14:45 authored by Andrea MigoneAndrea Migone, Michael HowlettMichael Howlett

During the past 30 years, research on policy analytical capacity's multidimensional nature and the evolution of policy advisory systems (PASs) has both increased knowledge of these processes and structures and opened new avenues of inquiry. While it is clear that changes in PASs in many countries have occurred - featuring processes such as the increased externalisation and politicisation of policy advice - studies of changes among the roles played by core policy professionals in advice provision have lagged. One aspect of this question concerns the nature and extent of changes in this ‘forgotten fundamental’ of advice systems related to how these professionals are arrayed within ‘policy shops’—that is organisational units identified in the 1960s and 1970s as the main organisational home of policy professionals in government. Whether or not such shops have changed from the central-integrated model identified in early studies and, if so, how, remain outstanding and foundational questions. Recent research in Canada has mapped the distribution of policy professionals at the central and provincial level and found more types of analysts and venues than in earlier eras— which range from the ‘classical’ integrated policy shops of the 1960s and 1970s which remain in central agencies and single-purpose line departments to the much more 'distributed' patterns found in many departments dealing with multiple or complex controversial issues. Using Canadian data, this study outlines the development of these organisational types and their distribution in government and discusses the implications of these changes for better understanding the work, and needs, of core professionals in policy advice systems. .

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