Experts, knowledge and the (de)legitimization of European politics

University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris, 23-24 May 2019

Since the beginning of the European integration process, decision-makers have worked closely with experts and researchers to formulate and implement policies. These actors can be considered as an integral part of European politics.

The 15th HEIRS Conference aims to reassess the ambivalent role of experts and expert knowledge in the history of European integration. We encourage PhD students and early career researchers to submit a proposal. The deadline for the submission of proposals is 15 December 2018.

Think tanks, expert groups and research services play an ambivalent role in policy-making: on the one hand, they collaborate with politicians by helping them to provide evidence and take informed decisions. They are supposed to be able to identify opportunities and risks of aspired policy goals, as well as to avoid unexpected outcomes of political decisions. Moreover, expert knowledge, like other forms of legitimization such as transparency or accountability, contributes to justify particular policies and political systems as a whole.

On the other hand, the influence of experts has also been criticized from various sides, including by policy-making actors, the media or civil organisations. Such critique addresses the issue that experts are not democratically elected, that the expertise they produce is usually neither entirely detached from political issues nor always objective, and that at times they can pursue or represent personal interests, thus acting similar to lobbyists. Experts can hence also contribute to the delegitimization of politics.

We are looking for presentations which address (but do not have to be limited to) the following topics:

  • Expertise as a form of (de)legitimization of European policies and politics

Who were the external and internal experts who had an impact on the European integration process from its beginnings? What role did they play regarding the (de)legitimization of European Community (EC)/European Union (EU) policy-making? Which relationship did they have with EC/EU officials? How did expert knowledge shape political decision-making processes and thus contribute to the (de)legitimization of European policies?

  • Quantifying Europe

Independent researchers, policy advisors and statistical offices produce quantitative data, models, and statistical analyses on Europe. These numerical data are not only ‘neutral’ research results, but are also used by European-level actors as instruments to present European political and societal realities as parts of their respective political agendas. For example, numerical data on the EU can be seen as a way to justify EC/EU intervention in various policy domains. How did European institutions and other organizations (such as think tanks) create and instrumentalize number-based knowledge that in turn affected European policies? Which role did statistical offices such as Eurostat play in the history of European integration and with regard to the (de)legitimization of the European project in particular?

  • Academic institutions, research and education on the EC/EU

Since the late 1940s, different academic institutions with close links to the EC/EU were established. Examples are the College of Europe in Bruges (1949), the European University Institute (1976), and the College of Europe in Natolin (1992). We encourage contributions focusing on the development of such centers, on the creation of university courses and diplomas dedicated to the EU, and on research policies developed at the European level. What were the driving forces and actors behind EU-focused teaching and research? What role did the EC/EU (and their individual institutions) play? And in how far did such research and education contribute to the (de)legitimization of European policies/policy-making?

We encourage PhD students and early career researchers to submit a proposal. The deadline for the submission of proposals is 15 December 2018. Please send an abstract of no more than 350 words and a short CV to Lola Avril ( and Lars Lehmann ( There is no conference fee. Accommodation costs will be covered for all participants presenting a paper. Those who have no access to funding from their home institution may apply for the reimbursement of travel expenses.

This conference is supported by the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the European Center for Sociology and Political Science (CESSP – University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne and the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales) . It will bring together PhD students and early career researchers from various disciplines to discuss their work in a number of panels both with their peers and with senior scholars, who will act as discussants and keynote speakers.

Download the Call for Papers here: pdf_icon