Comparative Study: Expertise for Policy in the COVID-19 Pandemic

What makes expert knowledge credible, legitimate, and reliable for use in public policy?

Professor Iris Eisenberger and her team at the Institute of Public Law and Political Science are participating in a comparative study of expertise for policy in the COVID-19 pandemic. The study is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Led by Stephen Hilgartner, Cornell University, and Sheila Jasanoff, Harvard University, scholars of 10 countries will conduct a comparative analysis on the relationship between expertise and trust.


Project Meeting 

On 29 October 2020, the international consortium of the research project met for one of its regular online meetings to compare and discuss the measures taken so far against the spread of COVID-19 in different parts of the world.

The Austrian case study is carried out by Professor Iris Eisenberger, Thomas Buocz and Nikolaus Poechhacker (University of Graz), together with the team of Professor Ulrike Felt (University of Vienna).

Many case study presentations had to be updated and revised in the last minute, e.g. because some national governments imposed renewed lockdowns. This shows the high dynamic of the corona situation.

On behalf of the Austrian team, Ulrike Felt reported on the historical development of infection incidence, testing strategy in Austria the legal and political controversies analysed by the team.

From a legal point of view, it could be seen that restrictive measures, such as restrictions to public space or to enter stores, brought freedom rights into the center of attention. On the contrary, the loosening of measures brought issues of equal treatment into the spotlight.

With regard to the rule of law, it was mainly the insufficient record keeping of the competent Federal Minister that led to the Constitutional Court (VfGH) declaring that some measures against COVID-19 from spring 2020 had been unlawful.


Presentation of Austrian Case Study

On 17 September 2020, Professor Iris Eisenberger, Thomas Buocz, and Nikolaus Pöchhacker joined the online meeting for the international research project CompCoRe. Thomas Buocz presented the progress on the Austrian case study on behalf of Iris Eisenberger’s team at Uni Graz and Ulrike Felt’s team at Uni Vienna.

He summarised the findings on the constitutional foundations for the Austrian regulatory response to the pandemic, the measures adopted and how long they were in place, what role data collection and scientific advice played, what the main objects of public debate were, and what measures the Austrian Constitutional Court (VfGH) declared unconstitutional.

CompCoRe is led by Stephen Hilgartner, Cornell University, and Sheila Jasanoff, Harvard University and receives funding from the U.S. National Foundation for Science (NSF). It comprises scholars of 10 countries to conduct a comparative analysis on the relationship between expertise and trust in the context of COVID-19.