Research policy linkages in the Baltic States: comparative analysis of a natural experiment

Authors: Alari Purju

This paper reports on a cross country study of research policy linkages within the framework of Phase 2 of the GDN’s Bridging Research and Policy (BRP) programme. In particular it offers a comparative study of linkages in the three Baltic countries – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The design and implementation of the project has been informed by the results of Phase 1 of the GDN BRP programme as well as by recent theories of research policy linkages. For example, in her groundbreaking paper Sutton (1999) criticised the linear model of policy formation suggesting instead a chaotic process that in many respects departs from rational decision-making. She argued that the role of special interests and other factors dilute and reduce the influence of research on policy. Stone et al. (2001) proposed a more critical review of the attempts to create bridges from research to policy and warned against too rigid an attempt to impose policy certainty in areas that are inherently normative. De la Porte and Deacon (2002) have pointed to another danger – namely that local interest groups may seek to ensure that foreign investigators are hired who are likely to support their preferred policy prescriptions. Our investigation of the Baltic states lends support in some measure to all of these theoretical positions.

Here, we offer an analytical account of our cross country investigations. The paper is organized as follows: in the next section we describe the background to the political and policy context in each of the three countries and some motivation for choosing them as an object of investigation; this is followed by a section on research design and methodology; next is a section that describes the main features of the ‘actors’ in the three countries – the researchers and the policy-makers; this is followed by a section that summarises our main results on linkages; and then a separate section on external research which proved to be a particularly important part of the story; the penultimate section reports on the policy episode investigations we undertook – especially the graphic accounts of the successful Estonian and Latvian campaigns to change the child benefit system. We conclude with some conclusions.