Ann C. Keller

University of California,Berkeley
Public Health

50 University Hall
Berkeley, CA

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My research focuses on the use of expertise in policymaking, particularly in bureaucratic settings. I study both the structural and procedural strategies that agencies use to establish and maintain credibility in contested political environments. This research has included debates about acid rain, climate change, crisis response, the risks of firearm ownership, and comparative effectiveness research. In addition to studying expertise in contested political domains, I study how advocates with “non-traditional” expertise confront policy domains that are usually reserved for experts. With this focus, I have studied the goals and strategies of patient-led disease advocacy organizations. Having researched both environmental and health policy domains, I am increasingly interested in explanations for why lay participation looks so different when comparing environmental health policy debates with health care system policymaking.

Keller, Ann C. and Laura Packel. Forthcoming. "Who Speaks for Patients? Disease-Centered Advocacy and the Elusive 'Citizen Group' Ideal." Journal of Health Politics Policy and Law.
Abstract: Citizen groups, though celebrated during their sudden arrival on the lobbying scene, are vastly outnumbered by groups representing elite, occupationally-based interests. Sensitive to the odds that non-occupational groups face, this study asks what factors have allowed patient groups to form and become active in federal politics. Using three distinct data sets— a survey of patient groups, content analysis of group websites, and in-depth interviews with group representatives and policy makers in Washington, D.C., this study assesses the activities of patient groups in the United States and argues that patient advocacy organizations garner stability from the relatively easy provision of selective and solidary benefits. Larger patient groups are especially likely to make use of these structural advantages to pursue congressional lobbying strategies. However, even these groups seek out non-competitive, distributive political environments. Moreover, the study finds that patient groups rarely form coalitions across diseases, foregoing the potential to collectively speak for shared patient interests.
Keller, Ann, Chris Ansell, Art Reingold, et al. 2012. "Improving Pandemic Response: A Sensemaking Perspective on the Spring 2009 H1N1 Pandemic." Risks, Hazards, and Crisis in Public Policy 3 (2):1-37.
Abstract: Pandemic response takes place in distributed, uncertain, and high-tempo environments. These conditions require public health agencies to rapidly generate and roll out publicly accountable responses in the face of incomplete and ambiguous evidence. To perform under these conditions, public health organizations have devised several tools to support decision making and response. This article examines two such tools that debuted during the 2009 H1N1 outbreak—the 2005 International Health Regulations and influenza pandemic planning. Relying on an international network of researchers who gained access to lead public health agencies in advance of the 2009 pandemic, this study draws on several forms of data—primary documentation, interviews, and an extended workshop with key officials—that were collected as the pandemic unfolded. With this unique data set, we analyze the performance of the International Health Regulations and pandemic influenza plans from a “sensemaking” perspective. We find that insufficient attention to both the complexities and time horizons involved with adequate sensemaking limited the ability of both tools to fully meet their goals. To improve organizational performance during global pandemics, the sensemaking perspective calls attention to the importance of informal venues of information-sharing and to the need for decisionmakers to continually update planning assumptions.
Keller, Ann Campbell. 2009. Science in Environmental Policy: The Politics of Objective Advice. Boston: MIT Press.
Abstract: Scientists often bring issues to the policy agenda, translating scientific questions into everyday language and political terms. When Roger Revelle characterized Earth as a spaceship in testimony to Congress in 1957, his evocative language framed the issue of our planet's climate vulnerability in a way that technical discourse could not. In this book, Ann Campbell Keller examines the influence of scientists on environmental policy and makes the novel argument that scientists' adherence to the role of neutral advisor varies over the course of the policy-making process. Keller divides the policy process into three stages—agenda setting, legislation, and implementation—and compares scientists' influence on acid rain and climate change policy at these different stages over the course of several decades. She finds that scientists face more pressure to uphold the ideal of objectivity as policy-making processes advance and become more formalized, and thus are more likely to engage in advocacy and persuasion in the earlier, less formal, agenda-setting stage of the process. In the later, more structured legislative and implementation phases, scientists—working hard to give the appearance of neutral expertise—cede the role of persuader to others. Keller draws on theoretical work in political science and science studies and on empirical evidence from scientific reports, news coverage, congressional hearings, and interviews. Focusing on comparable cases and considering scientists' participation in them over time, she offers insights into how the context of decision making affects scientists' policy influence and emphasizes the multiple pathways by which scientific meaning is constructed in public settings.
Ansell, Christopher, Arjen Boin, and Ann Keller. 2010. "Managing Transboundary Crises: Requirements for a Dynamic Response System." Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management 18 (4): 195-207.
Abstract: In recent years, crises have become increasingly transboundary in nature. This exploratory paper investigates whether and how the transboundary dimensions of crises such as pandemics, cyber attacks and prolonged critical infrastructure failure accentuate the challenges that public and private authorities confront in the face of urgent threats. We explore the transboundary dimensions of crises and disasters, discuss how an increase in ‘transboundedness’ affects traditional crisis management challenges and investigate what administrative mechanisms are needed to deal with these compounded challenges. Building on lessons learned from past crises and disasters, our goal is to stimulate a discussion among crisis management scholars about the political-administrative capabilities required to deal with ‘transboundary’ crises.
Keller, Ann. 2010. "Credibility and Relevance in Environmental Policy: Measuring Strategies and Performance among Science Assessment Organizations." Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 20 (2): 357-386.
Abstract: Organizations that provide scientific information to policy makers face the difficult challenge of maintaining scientific credibility while establishing their political relevance. A growing body of research examines how assessment organizations meet the potentially competing expectations of science and policy communities. However, existing research has failed to produce generalizable findings. This study draws together theoretical approaches in science studies and organization theory to develop a framework that allows for a comparative analysis of multiple cases. The study compares the organizational strategies of the National Research Council, the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Comparisons among the organizations are made using independent measures of credibility and political relevance. The evidence suggests that organizational strategies do impact assessment effectiveness and that it is possible for organizations to simultaneously achieve scientific credibility and political relevance.

Substantive Focus:
Environmental Policy SECONDARY
Health Policy PRIMARY

Theoretical Focus:
Policy Process Theory PRIMARY
Agenda-Setting, Adoption, and Implementation SECONDARY