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This qualitative case study is part of the international research project ESCaPE (Evaluating Scientific Advice in a Pandemic Emergency) and aims at understanding how expert advice has been sought, produced and utilized in the management of the Covid-19 emergency in Italy in 2020. Italy was the first country after China having to face the devastating effects of the Covid-19 soon to be pandemic. The state of national emergency was declared on January 31st, 2020, and the Italian Government sought expert advice as an important resource in the management of the pandemic. The Covid-19 crisis in Italy witnessed the emergence of different expert advisory groups: some envisaged by the law; some instituted ad hoc and tasked to deal with specific aspects of the emergency; and others that were already in place before the pandemic but that came to play a crucial role during the unfolding of the outbreak. This case study relies on a mix of both primary (stakeholder interviews) and secondary data collection (official documents and communications by expert advisory bodies, ministerial decrees, and policy documents). Our research shows three main findings: (a) the near-complete overlap of technical advice and political response in the first phase of the pandemic in Spring 2020, with a key policy role played by the advice provided by the Technical and Scientific Committee (CTS); (b) a predominance of epidemiologists and infectious disease specialists over social scientists in the mobilisation of experts for the management of the crisis in Italy; (c) a shift in containment policies from an emergency-based, very strict, national lockdown in the spring of 2020, to proactive risk-informed colour-coded regional restrictions in the fall and winter of 2020. Our case study ends at the end of 2020 and provides an overview and encompassing representation of the mobilization of experts, and of selected types of evidence, to manage the unprecedented health emergency, in year 1 of the Covid-19 pandemic in Italy. Our findings suggest that expert politics can lead to the confirmation of knowledge hierarchies that privilege hard sciences, and corroborate prior literature indicating that economic and social expertize has not been well integrated into public health expert advice, constituting a major challenge for policymaking during a health emergency.
Our work about how expert advice has been sought, produced and utilized in the Covid-19 health emergency in Italy in 2020, presented at the 19th biennal conference of the European Society of Health and Medical Sociology