Expertise and democracy: what can we learn from the corona virus crisis?

How does the current crisis shed light on questions regarding the relationship between science, policy and democracy? Professor Cathrine Holst gives the 2020 CPS Annual Lecture.

Join the lecture on Zoom: Meeting ID: 658 2489 2414


There are competing views about what characterizes the role of experts and expert knowledge in contemporary democracies. Where some see a ‘rise of the unelected’ and an increasing role of experts and professionals in policy-making and democratic decision-making, others see ‘the death of expertise’ and post-truth politics.

We also see strikingly opposing assessments of what the role of science and expertise in democracies ought to be. Where some regard more political power to experts as facilitating a more enlightened and evidence-informed public policies, others fear an ‘expertocracy’ in fundamental tension with democratic norms and that produces poor and biased decisions.

The lecture will zoom in on how the corona virus crisis sheds light on key questions regarding the actual – and the proper – relationship between science, policy and democracy.

The focus of the lecture will be on disentangling some apparent puzzles. For instance, how it can be that trust in science and expertise seemingly has achieved a boost during corona times despite a large amount of publicly exposed expert disagreement and immense levels of uncertainty.

Portrett av professor Cathrine Holst, UiO
Professor Cathrine Holst works in political sociology and democracy research, with a particular focus on the role of knowledge and expertise in policy and politics. Foto: UiO

Based on corona experiences, the lecture will also address the need to reform the institutions we have installed to bridge science and policy.​

About Cathrine Holst

Professor Cathrine Holst works at the Department of Sociology and Human Geography at

the University of Oslo (UiO). She is also Research Professor at the ARENA Centre for European Studies. In addition, Holst is connected to the Centre for Research on Gender Equality (CORE) and the Institute for Social Research.

Cathrine Holst's main fields of academic interest are political sociology and democracy research, social and political theory, the role of knowledge and expertise in policy and politics, EU, European integration and the Nordic model, gender policy, feminist theory and gender studies.

From fall 2020, Holst will lead a research group at the Centre for Advanced Studies at the Norwegian Academy of Arts and Letters, with a project entitled What is a good policy? Political morality, feasibility and democracy together with Jakob Elster, associate professor at the Norwegian Centre of Human Rights, UiO.


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Published June 24, 2020 10:43 AM - Last modified Oct. 23, 2020 2:28 PM