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Title:Deliberating environmental policy: information seeking and use in Canada's House of Commons standing committees
Author(s):Bloch, Naomi
Director of Research:Bruce, Bertram C
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Smith, Linda C
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Haythornthwaite, Caroline; Gasser, Les
Department / Program:Library & Information Science
Discipline:Library & Information Science
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Public deliberation
Information behavior
Environmental policy
Abstract:This case study examines the information practices of Canada’s elected federal representatives who work together within House of Commons standing committees to deliberate environmental issues. We now have new methods to access data on government activities due to the availability of more structured government information online and the work of the open data movement. These resources help to shed new light not just on what policy makers claim they are doing, but what their observable actions demonstrate. It is well understood and well documented that scientific research evidence does not, in and of itself, direct the development of science-related legislation or regulation. Particularly in the context of democratic governance, the role of such information is continually weighed against potentially conflicting economic, political, infrastructural, and constituent considerations. But a question that remains is when do we see scientific information playing a more central role in policy considerations, and when less? Relative to other kinds of input, are systematic patterns evident? This dissertation compares the deliberative consultation practices of committees that studied environmental issues over three recent parliamentary sessions. It analyzes the patterns and nature of sources consulted and begins to ascertain the place of scientific expertise within this mix. Problem structure and framing typologies are applied as a means of examining the role of political context and values in source selection. Results show that committees verbally make distinctions between stakeholder sources and expert sources, however in practice they do not observe the same distinctions when evaluating the information that different sources provide. When studying controversial topics, committees seemed to consider an objective examination of information to involve consulting a numerical balance of sources among politically conflicting source types. Committees whose mandates focus on environmental policy oversight generally sought a greater proportion of scientific information sources per study than committees with economic imperatives. At the individual study level, studies framed as economic problems generally relied less on science sources regardless of committee or type of government, and more on industry sources. By contrast studies framed in terms of scientific uncertainty or public accountability consulted fewer industry science sources and relied more on academic or government science sources respectively. During the majority government period a much more limited set of value frames were evident, with an economic frame applied to more than half the environmental policy studies. Across government periods, the proportion of science sources drawn from lobbyist and government networks is negatively associated with the length of a study. This may be explained by the difference in the nature of the problems examined during shorter and longer studies. As deliberative information environments, committees are expected to serve multiple purposes. In practice the result is that the system’s stated aim of assessing information in-depth as a mechanism for improving policy may conflict with other democratic or politically strategic aims.
Issue Date:2015-11-17
Rights Information:Copyright 2015 Naomi Bloch
Date Available in IDEALS:2016-03-02
Date Deposited:2015-12

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