Éric Montpetit

Universite de Montreal
Political Science

Département de science politique
Université de Montréal
Montréal, Québec
H3C 3J7

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My research encompasses the behavior of policy actors (interest groups, civil servants, public opinion...) and politics of scientific expertise.

Montpetit, Éric and Erick Lachapelle, (2016), “Information, Values and Expert Decison-Making: the Case of Soil Decontamination”, Policy Sciences. 49: 155-171.
Abstract: Building on insights from cognitive psychology and scholarship on decision-making, this article examines the respective role of values and information, and the interaction between them, in the formation of expert judgment. We analyze data from an original expert survey on soil decontamination practices and test several hypotheses found in the literature. While it is common to assume that experts rely primarily on factual information when making decisions, we find that values may also orient the judgment of experts when such information is lacking. In such cases, experts may be influenced by their value predispositions, leading to a wider range of expert assessments. Conversely, the judgment of experts who possess the relevant information tends to converge on the best known outcomes. We thus find that relevant knowledge mediates the role of values in expert judgment. While suggesting that some caution should always be taken when deferring to experts, our findings suggest that governments and the public are justified in taking experts’ judgment seriously.
DOI: 10.1007/s11077-015-9225-x
Montpetit, Éric (2016), In Defense of Pluralism: Policy Disagreement and Its Media Coverage. Cambridge University Press.
Abstract: The work of early pluralist thinkers, from Arthur Bentley to Robert Dahl, inspired much optimism about democracy. They argued that democracy was functioning well, despite disagreements arising among the diversity of interests represented in policy-making processes. Yet it is unlikely that anyone paying attention to news coverage today would share such optimism. The media portray current policy-making processes as intractably polarized, devoid of any opportunity to move forward and adopt essential policy changes. This book aims to revive our long-lost sense of optimism about policy-making and democracy. Through original research into biotechnology policy-making in North America and Europe, Éric Montpetit shows that the depiction of policy-making offered by early pluralist thinkers is not so far off the present reality. Today's policy decision-making process - complete with disagreement among the participants - is consistent with what might be expected in a pluralist society, in sharp contrast with the negative image projected by the media.
URL: http://www.cambridge.org/us/academic/subjects/politics-international-relations/comparative-politics/defense-pluralism-policy-disagreement-and-its-media-coverage
Lachapelle, Erick, Éric Montpetit and Jean-Philippe Gauvin. 2014. “Public Perceptions of Expert Credibility on Policy Issues: The Role of Expert Framing and Political Worldviews." Policy Studies Journal 42:674-697.
Abstract: How do individuals assess the credibility of experts in various policy domains? Under what conditions does the public interpret particular scientific knowledge claims as being trustworthy and credible? Using data collected from an online survey experiment, administered to 1,507 adult residents of Quebec, this paper seeks answers to these questions. Specifically, we examine variation in the way members of the public perceive the credibility of scientific experts in the areas of climate change, shale gas extraction, cell phones, and wind farms. Our results contribute to the existing literatures on public perceptions of policy experts, framing, and cultural theory. We find that individuals evaluate expert credibility based on the way in which experts frame issues, and on the congruity/dissonance between these expert communication frames and one’s underlying worldview. However, we also identify limits to these framing effects. Our findings shed light on the interaction of framing and political worldviews in shaping public perceptions of expert credibility in various policymaking contexts.
DOI: 10.1111/psj.12073
Montpetit, Éric and Erick Lachapelle. 2015. “Can Policy Actors Learn from Academic Scientists? Implications for the Rehabilitation of Contaminated Sites." Environmental Politics 24:661-680.
Abstract: Results from an embedded survey experiment administered to practitioners who advise landowners on decontamination practices are analyzed. These professionals play a key role in the area of soil decontamination, an issue that science has made particularly tractable and which calls for new technologies and policy approaches. Powerful interests, however, work against the rapid deployment of these new technologies and approaches. Our survey experiment, designed to overcome major difficulties in the study of policy learning, shows that exposure to new scientific knowledge can positively influence the attitude of practitioners to new technologies, independently of other confounding forces. This finding suggests that learning from science provides a potential pathway toward increased use of environmentally beneficial soil decontamination methods. The results contribute to research on the politics of environmental protection, as well the literature on policy learning.
DOI: 10.1080/09644016.2015.1027058
Montpetit, Éric. 2011. “Between Detachment and Responsiveness: Civil Servants in Europe and North America." West European Politics 34:1250-1271.
Abstract: The article shows that civil servants who believe that the long-term interest of society is best served by their detached policy advice to policy-makers also hold on to their opinion more than any other actor involved in policy development. However, more civil servants currently emphasise responsiveness, at the expense of detached analysis, owing to increased exposure to international consultancy and forums. As a consequence, the attitude of civil servants in developing public policy is more likely to be indistinguishable from that of actors who have political functions, without significant variation from country to country. Evidence supporting this argument is provided by an analysis of the results of a survey first conducted in 2006 and repeated in 2008. The two waves of the survey drew responses from civil servants, interest group representatives and nongovernmental experts who contribute to biotechnology policy development in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France and the European Union.
DOI: 10.1080/01402382.2011.616663
Montpetit, Éric. 2012. “Does Holding Beliefs with Conviction Prevent Policy Actors from Adopting a Compromising Attitude?” Political Studies 60: 621-642.
Abstract: Much of the political science literature argues that commitment to beliefs renders the attitudes of policy actors inflexible. Belief commitment encourages alliances among actors who think alike and creates a distance with those whose beliefs differ. As it cuts the flow of information between disagreeing actors, belief commitment constrains the attitudes of actors to consistency across a variety of objects and over time, preventing policy compromises. This article examines the possibility that different beliefs have different effects on attitude. Specifically, it hypothesizes that actors holding purposive beliefs have more consistent attitudes than actors holding material beliefs. Thanks to a survey of North American and European biotechnology policy actors, conducted twice between 2006 and 2008, it is shown that a strong commitment to purposive beliefs encourages attitude consistency across objects and over time, while equal commitment to material beliefs enables more attitude flexibility. Implications for democracy and policy-making compromises are discussed.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9248.2011.00930.x
Montpetit, Éric. 2011. “Scientific Credibility, Disagreement, and Error Cost in 17 Biotechnology Policy Subsystems.” Policy Studies Journal 39 (3): 513-533.
Abstract: One of the original objectives of the advocacy coalition framework (ACF) was to shed light on the role of science in policymaking. The ACF depicts subsystem scientists as political actors just like any other. Unfortunately, science has never become a major theme of research within the framework and, as a consequence, its role in policymaking remains under-theorized, leaving ample room for interpretation. This article seeks to explore the validity of three propositions about the role of science in policy. The first two are derived from the ACF: (i) the capacity of scientists to provide credible advice is affected by the harshness of the political debates dividing the policy subsystem; and (ii) agreement among scientists is just as common as among other groupings of policy actors. The third is derived from an ?error costs? argument: (iii) Disagreements among scientists are even more pronounced than disagreements among other policy actors. Using the results of a survey of policy actors in 17 biotechnology subsystems, this article finds support for the first and third propositions. Indeed, scientists? participation in political divisions might even be underestimated by the ACF. The article concludes with attempts to clarify the role of scientists within the ACF, including discussions of ambiguity regarding the role of professional forums and of scientists in between-coalition learning within policy subsystems.
Montpetit, Éric. 2009. "Governance and Policy Learning in the European Union: A Comparison with North America." Journal of European Public Policy 16 (8): 1185-1203.
Abstract: Several scholars argue that policy-making in the EU occurs in horizontal networks more frequently than in nation states. They add that EU networks, unlike networks in nation states, are not subordinated to any formal structure of authority. Moreover, EU networks seek consensus as their actors are concernedrnabout the EU?s democratic deficit. Consequently, learning features prominently as a method to make policy decisions in EU governance. This article tests this proposal. The test rests on a comparative survey yielding 666 completed questionnaires from actors involved in biotechnology policy development in Europe and North America. The survey was conducted twice, once in 2006 and once in 2008, and provides information on policy learning intensity, on consensus formation and on policy transfers. The survey fails to provide evidence that policy actors involved in EU governance learn more than those involved exclusively in European and North American nation states.

Substantive Focus:
Energy and Natural Resource Policy
Environmental Policy
Science and Technology Policy SECONDARY
Comparative Public Policy PRIMARY

Theoretical Focus:
Policy Process Theory PRIMARY