Nicole Dewandre: Case study

at European Commission

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Adviser to the Director-General, DG INFSO, European Commission

If you never realised what the phrase "a body of knowledge" might concretely mean, then the first week of the Policy Fellowship would give you a very tangible sense of it. During that week, I had the pleasure to meet 30 bodies of knowledge – living bodies, pointing to the fact that knowledge is deeply connected to thought in the same way as living bodies are deeply connected to minds.

I am grateful to all for sharing with me their substantiated views and opinions on the challenges ahead with regard to policy making in the remit of the Digital Agenda for Europe. This allowed new insights on privacy, security, liability, social cohesion, research and innovation policy to name but a few. In a very concrete manner, the inclusion of research communities and civil society organisations among the key actors to be involved in the new European Cybercrime Centre has been inspired by my conversations in Cambridge during this amazingly rich incoming week.

Throughout the week, I experienced wonderful encounters, which have put in a new light what the interaction between science and policy really can be. There is a strange thing in any human experience: that speaking about something and living it are deeply disconnected, to the point that speaking about it automatically gets you out of the experience, because to do so requires encapsulating it in some way and standing outside of it.

Does this apply to policy making itself? What are the consequences for transparency and accountability? Somehow, to be provocative, I wonder: “Wouldn't the best policy to foster innovation be expressed in terms where the word ‘innovation’ does not appear, except at the metadata level?” This runs counter to the accepted wisdom of transparency and search-engine filters. But it points to the fact that the relationship between knowledge and policy, mediated by language, cannot be understood in mechanical terms, even by bringing the important issue of power into the picture.

Of course, being based in Brussels makes it less straightforward to attend events and stay in touch as often as if I was based in London. A challenge for CSaP is to develop a specific format taking into account the geographical distance of its Fellows outside the UK.