The Multiple and Ambiguous Roles of Professionals in Public Policymaking

Jack H. Knott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The policy literature contains two conflicting views of the role of professionals in public policymaking. One view sees professionals as relatively noninfluential because decision makers ignore professional knowledge and professionals do not tailor their research to practical policy concerns. The other view depicts professionals as dominating the policy process through professional “issue networks” in and out of government that have replaced the old, special-interest pressure groups. The analysis presented here accepts neither of these views as adequately portraying the professional role in policymaking. Rather, professionals play multiple roles in the policy process, making it difficult to delimit a singular pattern of professional influence. To develop a more differentiated concept of professional roles, the article examines the different forms of knowledge employed by professionals, the different kinds of professionals involved in policy, and the political contexts in which professionals make policy decisions Illustrations of these different professional roles are taken from previous studies of economic and budgetary decisions making in the United States and West Germany.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-153
Number of pages23
JournalScience Communication
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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