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Maria Hedlund

Maria Hedlund

Associate Professor | Senior Lecturer

Maria Hedlund

Why are expert committee deliberations in need of democratic control?


  • Maria Hedlund

Summary, in English

Abstract in Undetermined
The aim of this paper is to argue for the need of democratic control of expert committees generally and ethical expert committees specifically. Expert committees including ethical expert committees with the commission to give advice to political decision-makers are often criticized for not being democratic. This criticism point at different aspects of expert committees: committee members are rarely being appointed in a transparent process, they are normally not in reach for democratic accountability, and the deliberation process in the committees is often being held behind closed doors. There might be good reasons for expert committees not being in need of democratic control. One argument is that political decision-makers must have the possibility to ask experts for advice in any policy area and in any form. Another is that committee decisions and, extensively, the quality of the knowledge basis of political decisions, improve if committees do not have to worry about public review while deliberating. However, I argue that it is of profound importance that all aspects of the policy process in a democratic society are open for critical scrutiny in public. This demand of political advisers should arguably be even stronger in ethically sensitive issue areas like questions of gene technology, normally handled by bioethical committees. In this paper I aim to develop the argument for the necessity of democratic control of expert committees, with a certain focus on bioethical organizations. In the development of this argument I will primarily build on recent theoretical literature and empirical findings about deliberative democracy and about bioethical organizations, as well as empirical observations of such organizations with a special focus of the Swedish National Council of Bioethics.


  • Department of Political Science

Publishing year




Document type

Conference paper


  • Political Science


  • Democracy
  • Public Policy
  • Political Participation
  • Deliberation
  • Bioethical Committees.

Conference name

European Consortium for Political Research, 2011

Conference date

2011-08-25 - 2011-08-27

Conference place

Reykjavik, Iceland