EPISTO kicked off

The EPISTO project staged its kick-off conference in Oslo on 4-5 April 2013. Around 60 participants contributed to a real kick-start of the project, which is lead by Cathrine Holst at ARENA.

Cathrine Holst, project director of EPISTO (Photo: UiO/Sindre Hervig)

EPISTO – Why not epistocracy? Political legitimacy and 'the fact of expertise' – inquires into the role of knowledge and expertise in modern democracies. A particular focus is on 'epistocratic' developments in the European Union.

The kick-off conference at Blindern campus gathered around 60 participants who contributed to interesting debates and fruitful discussions over two days on three core themes. These were expert rule and democratic legitimacy, the role of knowledge and expertise in EU governance, and the European Commission’s use of expertise.

Epistocracy in an EU context

Discussions around the first theme focused on implications of modern democracies' knowledge and expertise dependence for political and democratic theory, with a particular focus on epistemic approaches to deliberative democracy. Speeches and papers addressing the second theme discussed general trends and developments in the EU with regard to the role of expertise and experts in political decision-making, the implications for the EU's democratic legitimacy, and analytical strategies for studying expertise and democratic legitimacy in an EU context. The final theme was the European Commission's use of expertise, and the Commission's expert group system in particular.

Conference proceedings

Cathrine Holst opened the event, which was organised around plenary speeches and several parallel sessions. John Parkinson from the University of Warwick discussed ‘knowledge and power in deliberative systems’, and Fabienne Peter, also from the University of Warwick elaborated on ‘the epistemic circumstances of democracy’. Christina Lafont from Northwestern University rounded up the first day with a paper entitled ‘Deliberation, participation and democratic legitimacy: should deliberative polls shape public policy?’.

Deirdre Curtin from the University of Amsterdam kicked off the second day by presenting ‘Background Europe: challenges for an information democracy’. Bryan Wynne from Lancaster University and the University of Oslo held the last plenary speech, discussing his paper ‘If Europe is an epistemic question, why is scientism a dominant answer?’

A total of eight parallel sessions were held during the conference, allowing for the discussion of numerous research papers by scholars coming from different relevant disciplines and fields; political science, philosophy, law, sociology, and science studies.

The conference programme and papers (restricted access) are available from the conference web page.


EPISTO is a 5-year research project funded by The Research Council of Norway and hosted by ARENA, where it is directed by senior researcher Cathrine Holst.  The kick-off conference was the first of several international events within EPISTO during the five-year project period.

Published June 4, 2013 12:04 PM - Last modified Sep. 28, 2016 9:50 PM