PhD researcher in public policy: How do expert arguments survive in policy decisions?

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven


July 24, 2022


PhD researcher in public policy: How do expert arguments survive in policy


(ref. BAP-2022-450)

Last modification : Thursday, June 23, 2022

As part of a unique research project, the KU Leuven Public Governance Institute (Faculty of Social Sciences) wants to recruit one fully funded PhD candidate. The Public Governance Institute is an internationally oriented and interdisciplinary research institute studying various dimensions of public governance. Other members in the research team are two supervisors and a part- time postdoctoral researcher.

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The COVID-19 crisis provides an almost unique possibility of investigating a ‘natural experiment' where similar countries have responded differently to very similar problems. Notwithstanding diverging national policy responses to the pandemic, governments worldwide have relied on expert advice to design ‘policy solutions'. In fact, the role of experts and their access to the political arena has been unusually conspicuous during the COVID-19 crisis.

This project will investigate the conditions for the survival of expert arguments (compared to political and interest-based considerations) in policy decisions and it will explain the reasons for variations over time and between countries through comparative case studies (Belgium, Netherlands, Austria)

Specific tasks are

· Preparing a PhD in Public Policy at the Public Governance Institute (Prof. Marleen Brans, supervisor, Prof. Sonja Blum, co-supervisor).

· Communicating and coordinating with the other members in the research team (Dr. Ellen Fobé);

· Liaising with experts and public sector organisations for data collection purposes;

· Liaising with experts on the project's advisory board;

· Designing the research, collecting and analysing data, and communicating about the findings;

· Writing papers to be submitted to peer-reviewed journals;

· Participating in the international research community and presenting results at conferences;

· Communicating about findings to the broader public and to public sector organisations;

· Building transferable skills by occasional involvement in teaching activities, including supervision of exams, master thesis coaching, and support to the course Evidence Based Policy-Making and Policy Advising/Policy Analysis.


The PhD candidate has a background (Master, or near completion) in public administration, political science, public policy, sociology, or a related discipline. He or she has knowledge of and affinity with the field of public policy, and a particular interest in evidence-informed policy. In addition to an understanding of the latest developments in the field, the candidate must possess good research skills. Training will be provided.

Having distinguished oneself during the studies (equivalent of ‘cum laude' in the Belgian system) is essential. Proven affinity for empirical research, as evidenced for instance by your master's thesis, publications, research plans and/or other projects is required. You have good communicative and administrative skills, and are able to communicate research to a range of different actors, preferably in multiple languages. You are also open to spending several months abroad for a research stay and for training purposes. An excellent command of at least two of the four languages relevant for the project is required (Dutch, English, German, French). Understanding and reading all four is an asset. Language training can be provided.


A full-time position as PhD researcher(doctoraatsbursaal) for one year, which, upon positive evaluation, will be extended up to four years.

An inspiring and challenging international and academic environment at a leading European research university.

Salary and conditions are based on the collective labour agreement of Flemish universities: https: // www.

Starting date is 1 October 2022 (negotiable).


For more information please contact Prof. dr. Marleen Brans, tel.: +32 16 32 32 88, mail: or Mrs. Ellen Fobé, tel.: +32 16 32 36 15, mail: or Prof. Sonja Blum, mail: sonja.blum@uni-

We require a CV, a motivation letter, a writing sample, and the name and contact details of two references (all in English).

KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at

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