This interdisciplinary panel focuses on the role of "expert knowledge" and "experts" in policy-making in Japan to find out how the increasing importance of "experts" challenges democracy and contributes to or prevents political change.
Governments increasingly draw on expert knowledge to make and to legitimize decisions on complex issues in all policy fields from agriculture to security policy. While in decision-making processes about techno-scientific issues, it is often professional scientists who assess risks and define standards in expert committees (senmon chōsakai) attached to ministries or government agencies, in other policy fields not only scholars, but also representatives from the fields in question deliberate and negotiate policies in consultative councils (shingikai). Often, their role as "experts" and stakeholders for their respective organization overlaps. The same is true for scholars who also make recommendations that often go beyond their disciplinary expertise, including value judgments and policy suggestions when advising government agencies. Ministries and other institutions may draw on expert's opinions and evaluations to increase their own trustworthiness, but expert knowledge also plays an important role in mass media, when experts are quoted to shape public opinion by explaining, supporting or criticizing political decisions. This interdisciplinary panel focuses on "expert knowledge" and "experts" in different policy fields to tackle the following questions: Who defines expertise in political counseling and deliberation? How do experts view their own role in the policy-making process? How are experts' own interests related to the economic and political interests of the organizations they work for as well as to other actors' (i.e. bureaucrats, politicians, stakeholders) interests? Thus, with a focus on "experts" and "expert knowledge" we examine power relations, agency and possibilities for change in Japan's political system from a critical perspective. More generally speaking, by analyzing the construction of "expert knowledge" and the role of "experts" in policy-making in three different policy fields - culture, fisheries and food safety - this panel attempts to find out how the increasing importance of "experts" challenges democracy and contributes to or prevents political change.