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A typology of advisory bodies in legislatures and
M. Acosta, Matias Nestore, María Estelí Jarquín-Solís & Robert Doubleday
To cite this article: M. Acosta, Matias Nestore, María Estelí Jarquín-Solís & Robert Doubleday
(2022): A typology of advisory bodies in legislatures and research perspectives, The Journal of
Legislative Studies, DOI: 10.1080/13572334.2022.2070985
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/13572334.2022.2070985
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa
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Published online: 06 May 2022.
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A typology of advisory bodies in legislatures and
, Matias Nestore
, María Estelí Jarquín-Solís
Center for Science and Policy, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, Cambridge,
Accelerator Lab in Argentina, United Nations Development Program, Buenos Aires,
Shaping Horizons Ltd, London, UK;
University of Costa Rica, Ciudad Universitaria
Rodrigo Facio Brenes, San José, Costa Rica
Science advice has received renewed attention for evidence-informed
legislation. However, no work has evaluated current trends in the ﬁeld. We
did a systematic review for publications between 2014 and 2020 to develop a
typology using the legislative scientiﬁc advice body as a unit of analysis. The
typology includes 12 categories that provide insights into the contextual
background, mandate, structure, and advice process of legislative advisory
bodies. We noticed that most of the work focused on advisory units is in
western and high-income countries. The bodies show a wide degree of
advice practices and politicisation. There are open opportunities for research,
such as doing further comparative analyzes. Lastly, we found that foresight
and horizon scanning methodologies were increasingly implemented in
legislatures for participatory advice and to set long-term priorities. The
ﬁndings can shed light on advancing legislative scientiﬁc advice for
researchers and practitioners alike.
KEYWORDS Legislative science advice; legislatures; typology; evidence-informed policymaking
Policymakers are increasingly recognising the importance of evidence to
design and implement policies (OECD, 2015). This has led to a renewed
interest in understanding the nexus between science and policy and using
this knowledge to increase the eﬀectiveness of practitioners’work.
However, there are still challenges to connect scientiﬁc evidence with policy-
making, including diﬀerences between the type of evidence that researchers
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDer-
ivatives License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distri-
bution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered,
transformed, or built upon in any way.
CONTACT M. Acosta firstname.lastname@example.org
Supplemental data for this article can be accessed online at https://doi.org/10.1080/13572334.2022.
THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES
produced and the form of evidence that policymakers need (Cairney & Oliver,
2020;Rose,2017). The complexity and timeliness of scientiﬁcdataarejustsome
ofthebarrierstotheuseofscientiﬁc work for policymaking (Newman, 2020).
There have been works exploring diﬀerent routes to overcome these challenges,
including knowledge brokering and translations (Mols et al., 2020), institutiona-
lised collaborative practices (Estabrooks et al., 2019), promoting an organis-
ational culture of scientiﬁc advice in policy through leadership (Van der
Arend, 2014), among others. However, the scientiﬁc advice process is dependent
on the context of the government in which it is investigated or implemented
(Kenny et al., 2017). Traditionally, most academic work has focused on under-
standing scientiﬁc advice for executive branches (Kenny et al., 2017). Conse-
quently, recent systematic analyzes have focused on executive advisory
processes (Newman, 2020;Oliver&Cairney,2019). Hence, we asked ourselves:
what is the current state-of-the-art knowledge about legislative advisory bodies
and their advice processes? We ask ourselvesthisquestiontoexplorethecore
features and current research agendas related to legislative advice bodies.
Using these ﬁndings, we build a typology to ﬁnd patterns and open research
opportunities in the topic.
As Kenny et al. (Kenny et al., 2017) pointed out, legislatures have unique
responsibilities to make scientiﬁcadvicediﬀerent from the executive branch.
Legislators reconcile the diverse interests and needs of societies’constituent
groups. They have special functions such as debating, creating legal and budgetary
frameworks, and overseeing programmes implemented by executive branches.
These functions require that legislators have access and seek support through a
scientiﬁc advice process that should cater to diﬀerent political agendas (Kenny
et al., 2017). Hence, these unique characteristics and challenges should be con-
sidered when establishing new science advisory bodies in legislatures.
To our knowledge, there has been no systematic analysis of the recent aca-
demic work focusing on legislative advisory bodies. Hence, this contribution
analyzed the research agendas on legislative advisory bodies and their advi-
sory processes within presidential and parliamentary political systems world-
wide. The goal of the work was to create a typology of the legislative advisory
bodies to systematically understand the current research agendas in the
topic, the characteristics of scientiﬁc advisory bodies’that they investigate,
and the respective advisory processes. We did this eﬀort in the hope that it
can become a valuable resource for academics and practitioners alike. We
considered peer-reviewed academic articles published between 2014 and
2020 for the analysis and subsequently expanded the information about
the advisory bodies using grey literature. We did the literature review and
systematic typology analysis taking as a unit for the analysis the legislative
advisory body and taking into consideration three key questions: i) ‘What
is the name and political context of the advisory body?’, ii) ‘What is(are)
the mandate(s) of the advisory body?’, iii) ‘How is the advisory body
2M. ACOSTA ET AL.
composed and how does it produce advice?’. The data compiled was used to
build a typology of advisory bodies in legislatures and analyze current trends
in the ﬁeld. We concluded this work by describing some potential upcoming
trends and areas of particular interest of scientiﬁc advice in legislatures that
seem to be expanding.
We carried out a literature search looking for peer-reviewed academic
articles between January 2020 and July 2020. We searched the literature
using Google Scholar, EBSCO, ScienceDirect, ProQuest, and JSTOR to
access various scholarly sources without limiting the search to any particular
type of journal. In other words, we focused on analyzing all articles that went
through a peer-review process and were related to scientiﬁc advisory bodies
in legislatures. We used a wide variety of terms and keywords to reﬁne the
literature search while assessing the relevant publications on the topic. The
critical terminology used for the search included ‘science’,‘technology’,
‘assessment’,‘advice’,‘legislature’,‘foresight’, and ‘horizon scanning’, both
in English and Spanish, owing to the mother tongues of the co-authors.
For this initial search, we did not set a time frame for the publication year
of the articles and found 103 articles. After analyzing the number of publi-
cations as a function of years, however, we decided to constrain the time-
frame to do a second and more reﬁned search. We focus the second
search on articles published between 2014 and 2020. We chose this strategy
to limit the number of legislatures analyzed and reﬂect recent academic
interests in the topic. In particular, we observed that there was a substantial
increase in the number of articles published in 2014 onwards, so we decided
to take this as the ﬁrst year of analysis. This implies relatively recent literature
without reducing the representativeness of the data analyzed. In the second
search, we used the key terminology described above and we further included
derivatives of these terms such as ‘evidence-based legislation’,‘science
advice’,‘scientiﬁc advice’,‘evidence policy’,‘technology assessment’,‘tech-
nology assessment legislation’,‘evidence-based policy in legislatures’, and
‘legislative scientiﬁc advice’. Moreover, we also used cross-references of
each of the papers found to evaluate the literature in more detail. This litera-
ture search led to ﬁnding data on 17 scientiﬁc advisory bodies distributed
across 15 countries (see supplementary material). The publications shed
light on current research trends because they include information about
the characteristics, processes, and particularities of the advisory bodies.
We noticed, however, that in order to make a comparative analysis among
the bodies, we required in some occasions further information that was
not suﬃciently elaborated in the academic peer-reviewed literature found.
Hence, we complemented the search by doing a grey literature review to
THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES 3
expand the available information. We did keep, however, the original 17
scientiﬁc advisory bodies and in general the volume of academic work in
the topic well-reﬂected in the analysis. By grey literature, we mean publi-
cations such as reports, blogs, and white papers without peer review.
Notably, most of the grey literature used was online material published by
and web pages of the advisory bodies. In this way, we could provide more
insights for the comparative discussion.
Our work has limitations. First, this was an exploratory review, and it is
possible that the literature search failed to capture all relevant publications
despite the thorough key terminology used in both searches. This implies
that the ﬁndings are not statistically meaningful. Besides, articles published
after July 2020 were not considered for the typology. Second, since our
goal was to reﬂect trends in recent peer-reviewed academic articles, we
limited the timeframe of the publications analyzed from 2014 onwards.
Third, we only performed the analysis on publications written either in
English or Spanish. Fourth, we analyzed only publications indexed in
English or Spanish (in abstracts or full text), leaving works in other languages
both outside of the search and our analysis. The latter certainly will limit the
potential geographical distribution of the articles found. Fifth, we focus our
search only on peer-reviewed materials such as book chapters, conference
proceedings, and journal articles. Grey literature, meaning publications
such as reports, blogs, and white papers without peer review, was only
used to complement the search in particular areas in which we required
insights for making an analysis or elaborating a discussion. Should the
search have been done considering grey literature more broadly, more infor-
mation might have been gathered. However, we did not perform such a
search because we wanted to highlight current research trends in peer-
reviewed articles primarily. Lastly, because of this approach, the work may
not necessarily reﬂect all the complexities or scientiﬁc advisory bodies glob-
ally, or even from a particular legislature. The latter may occur, for instance,
if there were to be a peer-reviewed article(s) discussing a single advisory body
within a legislature that features more than one advisory body.
Towards a typology of advisory bodies for legislatures
Using the criteria outlined in the methodological section, we found over 60
peer-reviewed articles published between 2014 and 2020. Figure 1 shows the
distribution of papers as a function of years. We do not observe a recent
increase in the number of publications related to scientiﬁc advice processes
in legislatures in the last six years, which indicates that the topic is still inci-
pient, as suggested elsewhere (Kenny et al., 2017).
Using information gathered from papers between 2014 and 2020, we con-
structed the typology considering the categorizations done by Kenny et al.
4M. ACOSTA ET AL.
(Kenny et al., 2017), the European Parliamentary Technology Assessment
Network (EPTA Network, 2021), and Groux et al. (Groux et al., 2018). We
propose a typology that integrates critical aspects from these works and
other general considerations from recent literature by analyzing these publi-
cations. Taking the advisory bodies as a unit of analysis, we propose 12 typol-
ogy categories (described below) classiﬁed into three overarching clusters:
contextual background, mandate, and structure and process. The scientiﬁc
advisory bodies and the variables used for the typology are showcased in
the supplementary material. We notice that the analysis is limited to a
reduced number of advisory bodies and legislatures that represent the
peer-reviewed academic research done between 2014 and 2020. This
implies that there are scientiﬁc advisory bodies within certain legislatures
that are not reﬂected or analyzed. The latter is a consequence of the method-
ology employed, as described in the methods section.
The contextual background provides general information related to the
advisory body typology. In other words, this cluster of typology categories
serves as a basis or a reference point to contextualise the analyzes made
with the other two clusters. In this cluster, we included the Advisory Body
Name, Location, Political System, Type of Legislature, and Cameral Advice
as typology categories.
The mandate cluster details the advisory body’s goal(s) and objective(s).
To be included in this manuscript, the primary aim of an advisory body
must be to provide advice to legislators. In other words, any research
paper that provided information about an advisory body whose primary
institutional mandate was beyond legislative advice was deliberately not
Figure 1. Number of publications as a function of years focusing on scientiﬁc advice in
THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES 5
analyzed. However, as pointed out elsewhere (Kenny et al., 2017), each leg-
islative body may have secondary goals and objectives. Hence, we consider it
essential to include typology categories that could shed light on these various
mandates. Taking these considerations into account, we designed the typol-
ogy categories within this cluster to answer the question ‘What is(are) the
mandate(s) of the advisory body?’. Based on these premises, we included
the Nature of Mandate, Targeted Audience, Type of Output(s), and
Nature of Advice as typology categories.
Finally, the structure and process cluster provides detailed information
about the advisory body composition and the process of oﬀering advice.
This cluster, therefore, answers the question ‘How is the advisory body com-
posed and how does it produce advice?’. This cluster included the typology
categories Advisory Body Composition, Appointment Methodology, Role of
Legislators, and Advisory Governing Body. We provide a detailed descrip-
tion of each typology category below.
Advisory body name
The advisory body is the unit of analysis in this manuscript. Hence, in this
category, we introduce the name of the advisory body translated to
English. Namely, in the UK, one scientiﬁc advice body in the legislature is
the ‘Parliamentary Oﬃce for Science and Technology’.
We use the list and nomenclature of 193 countries as recognised by the
United Nations for this category.
We considered two types of political systems for this category: a) presidential
and b) parliamentary systems (Linz, 1994).
Type of legislature
The legislatures analyzed were unicameral or bicameral (Tsebelis, 1995).
We considered legislatures with single cameras or lower- and upper-cameras
(Tsebelis et al., 1997).
6M. ACOSTA ET AL.
Nature of mandate
Advising legislators on scientiﬁc and technological endeavours should be the
primary institutional mandate of the advisory body for it to be considered in
this manuscript. However, this might be an exclusive mandate, or another
secondary mandate could include producing output(s) targeting other audi-
ence(s) as part of the work of the advisory body.
In this category, we analyzed the most likely intended audience of the
product(s). These could be legislators or include secondary audiences like
the general public, students, or the Executive branch.
Type of output(s)
We analyzed the outputs of the advisory body process, whether they are
single or multiple.
Nature of advice
For this category, we took as a basis the categorisation proposed by Groux
et al. (Groux et al., 2018): i) Descriptive, referring to science advice mechan-
isms where situations do not explicitly attempt to inﬂuence behaviour or
policy; ii) Prescriptive, which explicitly oﬀers recommendations about
what the decision-maker should do; and iii) Mixture, where the advisory
body produces both descriptive and prescriptive advice.
Advisory body composition
The composition of the advisory body was analyzed in this category. We
evaluated any staﬀ, intern, or volunteer directly involved in the formulation
of the advice. Here, ‘directly involved’refers to any person that inﬂuenced
the advisory outputs. The advisory body could be scientists, legislators,
civil servants, the general public (any citizen beyond the roles described
before), and any combination. We note here that advanced doctoral candi-
dates such as those generally involved in the UK Parliamentary Oﬃce of
Science and Technology were considered scientists rather than students
because of their advanced scientiﬁc knowledge when selected to participate.
We want to highlight that we did not account for administrative support staﬀ
in the process. Despite being instrumental for the advisory body’s working
environment, we consider they do not contribute directly to the output’s
content. A remark worth noting is that in the articles analyzed in the
THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES 7
typology of this work, we found little to no peer-reviewed information about
the roles of advisory bodies staﬀ. Hence, most of the data treated in this cat-
egory come from grey literature.
Two diﬀerent processes of appointing members for an advisory body were
considered in this category: i) Political appointment, either by internal
voting or other political processes. Members of the executive branch or legis-
lators can make the appointments. ii) Independent appointment implies that
independent academic bodies, external research organisations, or advisory
bodies (when this does not involve legislators or executive branch
members) can appoint its members.
Role of legislators
This category analyzed whether legislators were directly involved in produ-
cing evidence or simply received output from the process. Here, by
‘involved’, we refer to the legislators participating in the formulation of advi-
sory topics during the advisory methodology itself, meaning gathering infor-
mation or inﬂuencing by other means and at any standpoint the process of
Advisory governing body
We considered that the person or cluster of people that set the agenda for the
advisory process constitute the governing body of an advisory unit. We did
this classiﬁcation according to whether scientists, legislators, civil servants,
the general public (any citizen beyond the roles described before), and any
combination among them govern the body.
Typology of advisory bodies for legislatures: an analysis
Figure 2 shows the results of the analysis of recent peer-reviewed articles
complemented with grey literature (as described in the methods section)
using the proposed typology. The ﬁrst row (a-d) corresponds to the contex-
tual background cluster, the second row (e-h) to the mandate cluster, and the
third row (i-l) to the structure and process cluster.
The contextual background cluster provides information that can be used
as a reference point to provide insights into trends or common patterns
related to the mandate and structure of advisory bodies or their advice pro-
cesses featured in recent peer-reviewed academic literature. Most of the work
since 2014 focused on European legislatures (77%). The category includes
8M. ACOSTA ET AL.
work on Denmark (Ganzevles et al., 2014; Klüver et al., 2015; van Est &
Vienna, 2015), the European Union (as a case study) (Ganzevles et al.,
2014; Riiheläinen & Böhm, 2017), Finland (Committee for the Future,
2021; Ganzevles et al., 2014), France (Ganzevles et al., 2014; Kenny et al.,
2017), Germany (Cross et al., 2021; Ganzevles et al., 2014; Strunk, 2015),
Latvia (Kalniņš,2019), Estonia (Kalniņš,2019), Greece (Ganzevles et al.,
2014), Sweden (Nentwich, 2016), The Netherlands (Ganzevles et al., 2014;
van Est, 2019; van Est & Vienna, 2015), The United Kingdom (Kenny
et al., 2017), and Switzerland (Ganzevles et al., 2014; Kenny et al., 2017) advi-
Secondly, and followed by a much lower number of publi-
cations on advisory bodies, is the American continent (8%) which includes
publications from the United States (Dolin, 2014; Kaldewey & Schauz,
2018; United States Congressional Research Service Library of Congress,
2021) and Chile (Nájera, 2015), Oceania (3%) with New Zealand (Boston
et al., 2020;Jeﬀares et al., 2019), and Africa with Botswana (2%) (Cockcroft
et al., 2014). We also found publications targeting more than one geographi-
cal region simultaneously (11%) (Akerlof et al., 2020; Groux et al., 2018;
United States Congressional Research Service Library of Congress, 2021;
Wilsdon et al., 2014).
We notice a clear majority of legislative scientiﬁc advice articles evaluating
western and high-income countries, with an exceptionally high proportion
Figure 2. Visualisation of the typology categories for the legislative advisory bodies ana-
lyzed. (a-d) show the contextual background cluster, (e-h) the mandate cluster, and (i-l)
the structure and process cluster.
THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES 9
of European publications. Surprisingly, we found no peer-reviewed publi-
cations in the same period for other Asian countries with a large volume
of academic production like China, India, Japan, South Korea, to name a
few that could be related to the limitations of this work, as described in
the methods section. Moreover, despite ﬁnding a total of 60 publications
between 2014 and 2020, we found that the focus is not just on particular
countries but also on distinct advisory bodies as we found information in
all these papers about only 17 of them (as indicated in the supplementary
material). The vast majority of the publications (82%) focus on parliamen-
tary systems advisory bodies rather than presidential ones (Figure 2b). We
found that 8 of the 17 advisory bodies are part of a bicameral type of legis-
lature (47%, Figure 2c). Amongst them, 75% provide advice to both cameras
and 25% only to one of the cameras. However, considering all 17 advisory
bodies, most bodies advise single cameras (65%) rather than both (Figure
The mandate cluster provides information about the advisory body’s goal
(s) and objective(s) among those that were investigated in peer-reviewed
articles between 2014 and 2020. We found out that 53% of the legislative
advisory bodies focus exclusively on advising legislators, whereas the other
47% of them have multiple objectives (Figure 2e). The typology indicated
that beyond legislators, these bodies produce advice to the general public
and students (24%), the general public (18%), and the executive branch
(6%) (Figure 2f). The Finnish Committee for the Future is notable in this
regard, as it acts as an intermediary body between the Executive and the Leg-
islative branches of government (Ganzevles et al., 2014). Once the Finnish
executive government issues a report on future goals and perspectives, the
Committee’s role is to develop the Parliament’s response and then send it
back to the Executive (Committee for the Future, 2021). The wide variety
of audiences targeted implies that most bodies investigated to date (88%)
produce more than one type of product to showcase their advice (Figure 2g).
If the advisory bodies investigated in peer-reviewed articles with an exclu-
sive mandate (53%) are contrasted with those with multiple types of outputs
(88%), it implies that more than one type of output targets legislators.
Indeed, we discuss further this by introducing four notable advisory
bodies when it comes to diversity of outputs: The German Oﬃce of Technol-
ogy Assessment (exclusive) (Oﬃce of Technology Assessment, 2021), The
Foresight Centre in Estonia (exclusive) (Plats 1a,2021), and the Danish
Board of Technology (multiple) (The Danish Board of Technology, 2021),
and The US Congressional Research Services (exclusive) (Congressional
Research Service in the United States, 2021). Indeed, even if they have exclu-
sive or multiple mandates, they oﬀer their advice targeting legislators
through various research methods and communication devices. They gener-
ally range from common scientiﬁc advice strategies (policy briefs, reports) to
10 M. ACOSTA ET AL.
more innovative ones, including foresight and horizon scanning activities,
citizen engagement, and scenario workshops. In particular, The German
Oﬃce for Technology Assessment produces individual reports, policy-
briefs called TAB-Fokus, and report series on related issues about assessment
of technologies (Oﬃce of Technology Assessment, 2021). In Estonia, the
Foresight Centre has reports and study projects involving primary research,
scenario simulation, and trend reviews analyzing future global developments
and their impact (Plats 1a,2021). Similarly, the Danish Technology Board
provides advice through (among others) policy analysis, citizen engagement,
scenario workshops, dialogue meetings, and horizon scanning (The Danish
Board of Technology, 2021).
The US Congressional Research Services provides a somewhat diﬀerent
series of outputs for legislators. They include in-person brieﬁngs, conﬁden-
tial memoranda, telephone and email responses, seminars and workshops,
and individual inquiries to legislative committees and legislators. In particu-
lar, written outputs include reports, short two-page documents providing a
quick overview on a topic, infographics, brief examinations of recent devel-
opments, and testimonies of experts (United States Congressional Research
Service Library of Congress, 2021).
Among the scientiﬁc advisory bodies in peer-reviewed articles, we also
noticed that most of the advice produced in diﬀerent outputs is descriptive
(53%) or a mixture between descriptive and prescriptive (35%). Only 12%
of the advice is prescriptive (Figure 2h). For example, the US Congressional
Research Services provides brieﬁngs and consultations to address issues on
the legislative agenda (descriptive) and identiﬁes and assesses policy
options (prescriptive) (United States Congressional Research Service
Library of Congress, 2021). Groux et al. (Groux et al., 2018) pointed out
that advice given in a purely descriptive manner, i.e. oﬀering no recommen-
dations, is substantially diﬀerent from that provided in a prescriptive way
with concrete recommendations. The classiﬁcation is particularly relevant
for legislatures because it can help understand the role and nature of the
advice in the legislative scrutiny and debate and could be considered in
future works. What is notable here is that the advisory bodies with politically
appointed members also produce prescriptive advice, namely the German
Enquete Commissions (Strunk, 2015) and the French Parliamentary Oﬃce
For Scientiﬁc and Technological Assessment (OPECST) (Ganzevles et al.,
2014; Kenny et al., 2017). Interestingly, the previously assumed descriptive
nature of legislative advice (Kenny et al., 2017) does not seem to fully charac-
terise the rather diverse nature of legislative scientiﬁc advice found in the
peer-reviewed articles analyzed in this work.
From the analysis of this cluster, we asked ourselves whether the need to
engage with diﬀerent audiences to formulate legislation is the reason behind
the advisory bodies’wide variety of goals, objectives, and products. Our
THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES 11
ﬁndings from the analysis, therefore, open important questions that warrant
future research and should be considered by practitioners when establishing
an advisory body. For instance, ‘what is the reason behind having secondary
goals? ‘,‘How much resources should an advisory body allocate to secondary
goals?’,‘Is there a need to produce for each goal/objective a single type of
output or could there be a single output that serves more than one objec-
tive?’, to name a few. Such questions go beyond the scope of this article
but open the possibility of doing comparative legislative analysis among
countries that, as we observed, are still scarce in literature (Figure 2a).
The structure and process cluster provides information about the advisory
body composition and its advice. We found that the composition of advisory
bodies in peer-reviewed articles can vary substantially in diﬀerent countries.
Doing analysis of grey literature to complement the academic research pub-
lications, we found that the vast majority of bodies, as expected, are com-
posed of scientists (35%). However, scientists with civil servants and
legislators also participate in the advice process (Figure 2i). Furthermore,
we found that close to half of the bodies appoint their members politically
(47%, Figure 2j). Legislators are involved in the advice process in close to
two-thirds of the bodies (65%, Figure 2k).
Another interesting ﬁnding is that a minority (24%) of the bodies in peer-
reviewed articles have no scientists involved in the advisory process, and
instead, legislators drive the process (Figure 2i). There are also cases where
they carry out the work with scientists (e.g. OPECST, France Ganzevles
et al., 2014; Kenny et al., 2017), or cases in which the advisory body is com-
posed exclusively by legislators but periodically engages in conversation with
scientists (e.g. Committee for the Future, Finland EPTA Network, 2021;
Ganzevles et al., 2014). There are other cases in which the advisory body
appears to be composed entirely of civil servants. For instance, the US Con-
gressional Research Service comprises about 600 employees, including policy
analysts, attorneys, and information professionals working across various
disciplines (United States Congressional Research Service Library of Con-
When analyzing the governing structure of the bodies that set the agenda
for advice, we found that over half of them (53%) is entirely composed of
legislators, about a third by scientists (35%), and the rest are formed by a
combination of legislators, scientists and civil servants (Figure 2l). This
ﬁnding reveals that despite the vast majority of bodies in peer-reviewed
articles are composed by scientists (35%, Figure i), they are governed in
the majority of the cases (53%, Figure 2l) by legislators.
Politically appointed bodies or those composed by legislators are likely
more liable to political inﬂuence than independently appointed ones with
no legislators involved in the advice process (Kenny et al., 2017). Hence,
we may use the information gathered in the process and structure cluster
12 M. ACOSTA ET AL.
to estimate the power dynamics between the advisory bodies and legislators
and the level of independence of the advisory process. We found that 53% of
the advisory bodies are governed by legislators (Figure 2l), and 65% of them
have legislators involved in the advice process (Figure 2k). Moreover, almost
half (47%, Figure 2j) of the advisory body’s members are politically
appointed. Combining these ﬁndings and considering previous literature
(Ganzevles et al., 2014; Kenny et al., 2017), we found that there could be a
potential inﬂuence of legislators in the advisory bodies and processes ana-
lyzed in peer-reviewed articles. Hence, it is worth deﬁning politicisation to
compare the diﬀerent advisory bodies and whether we observe diﬀerent
degrees of potential politicisation. Following Gheyle (Gheyle, 2019), we
understand politicisation here as a ‘heightened involvement of politicians
in decision-making’, whereby politicians refer to legislators in this manu-
script. Considering this deﬁnition, we could estimate potential politicisation
among advisory bodies by analyzing the presence of legislators in the advi-
sory bodies’composition and governing body and whether legislators are
involved in the process of scientiﬁc advice.
In Figure 3, we composed a visualisation strategy using the supplementary
materials that considers most of the variables of the typology analyzed. We
used the approach to understand patterns in the data and evaluate the poten-
tial politicisation degree, as deﬁned before. Figure 3a showcases the bodies
that provide descriptive advice, whereas 3b provides mixed or prescriptive
advice. We found that most bodies produce multiple outputs, irrespective
of whether they provide descriptive or proscriptive advice. There also
appear to be three main groups of advisory bodies with similar character-
istics about their degree of politicisation. As indicated with black labels,
there is a much stronger inﬂuence of legislators in the advisory process
and governance of the advisory bodies in Botswana (Library and Information
Services Unit), Germany (Oﬃce of Technology Assessment and Enquete
Commissions), Finland (Committee for the Future), the United Kingdom
(POST), Sweden (Evaluation and Research Secretariat), Greece (Committee
on Technology Assessment), Chile (National Congress Library), and France
(OPECST). Hence, in these countries, the advice process appears to have a
higher degree of politicisation. There is a second group of advisory bodies
composed of the advisory bodies of Latvia (Analytical Service) and Estonia
(Legal and Analytical Department). They appear to have less politicisation
in the process of advice but are governed by legislators. Lastly, there is a
third group of countries like Estonia (Foresight Centre), Denmark (Danish
Board of Technology), New Zealand (Parliamentary Library), the United
States (Congressional Research Service), Switzerland (TA Swiss), and the
Netherlands (Rathenau Institute) in which legislators are not involved or
barely involved both in the process of advice or governing the body itself.
The case of Estonia’s legislative advice is peculiar. For the shorter-term
THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES 13
advice given by the Legal and Analytical Department, the legislature has a
more politicised advisory process than the longer-term future-oriented
advice given by the Foresight Centre.
An important aspect worth highlighting, though, is that if the potential
politicisation is distributed among diﬀerent political parties as represented
in a balanced legislature, it may limit the political inﬂuence in the advice
agenda. Since the data analyzed in this work represents research trends
but not necessarily a large representative sample of advisory bodies, the
ﬁndings are not statistically meaningful. These highlights, however, that
exploring case studies in further detail to corroborate or refute this ﬁnding
is warranted. What is a particularly intriguing aspect worth examining
further is whether legislative advice indeed diﬀers in nature from the one
typically found in executive branches or it instead takes a diﬀerent way of
producing advice while still being politicised. The latter contradicts previous
assumptions about the diﬀerent nature of scientiﬁc advice in the legislative
branch compared to the executive one (Kenny et al., 2017).
Figure 3. data visualisation of appendix information and typology to evaluate the
degree of politicisation in bodies with a) descriptive and b) mixed or prescriptive
advice. The typology categories used for the analysis of both ﬁgures from left to
right are nature of advice, the role of legislators, advisory body composition, type of leg-
islature, governing body composition, type of output(s), and target audience.
14 M. ACOSTA ET AL.
Given the large degree of potential politicisation in legislative scientiﬁc
advice across several countries, we considered it essential to exemplify
here bodies that appear to be primarily independent such as The Rathenau
Institute in the Netherlands (Ganzevles et al., 2014; Rathenau, 2021; van
Est, 2019; van Est & Vienna, 2015), Technology Assessment Switzerland
(TA Swiss) (Ganzevles et al., 2014; Kenny et al., 2017; Technology Assess-
ment Switzerland, 2021), The Estonian Foresight Centre (Nentwich, 2016;
Plats 1a,2021), and the Danish Board of Technology (Ganzevles et al.,
2014; The Danish Board of Technology, 2021). Namely, the Danish Board
of Technology and the Estonian Foresight Centre also showcase the higher
methodological diversity in research and outputs. In addition to traditional
reports and policy briefs, they have done participatory budgeting, citizenship
engagement, and scenario simulation (The Danish Board of Technology,
2021). In future works, researchers could assess whether there is a correlation
between the institutional and political independence of the body and the
plurality and innovative nature of its outputs.
Future opportunities on advisory processes for legislatures
Participatory approaches: foresight and horizon scanning
Legislatures are of crucial importance on topics that require debate. Hence,
there is often a need to enrich these debates beyond political audiences and
expert circles because of the high likelihood of far-reaching eﬀects on the
economy and society of legislative policies. (Tuomala & Baxter, 2019)
Attempts to foster a participatory approach to science advice are not a
new topic. In 1984, there was already a Policy Memorandum on Integration
of Science and Technology in Society in the Netherlands (Rip, 2018). During
the early 2000s, there were also works (Guston & Sarewitz, 2002) that con-
tinued these eﬀorts. In the UK, for instance, the Parliamentary Oﬃce of
Science and Technology implemented strategies to enrich public dialogues
in science advice in 2001 (Kass, 2001). Despite the precedents, we noticed
a renewed focus on including civil society in scientiﬁc advice (Cross et al.,
2021; Nentwich, 2016), so we extend some key trends here.
Participatory approaches can be understood as ‘a wide range of instru-
ments to enhance citizen involvement in policymaking and implementation,
including diﬀerent forms of interactive policymaking, deliberative forms and
e-governance’(Michels & De Graaf, 2017). They can contribute to increasing
the understanding of stakeholders and actors to challenges that may pose a
broad range of ethical and values dimensions. In general, engagement of
wider stakeholders in the legislative process can fulﬁl the role of letting
aﬀected people have a say in the issue being discussed, facilitate a learning
experience opportunity of their surroundings, identify emerging issues and
THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES 15
gain insights on ongoing public dialogue and/or emerging issues. Therefore,
implementing participatory approaches in legislatures can eﬀectively make
decision-making more transparent and democratic (Owens, 2000; Parker
et al., 2014; Weber et al., 2019).
Alongside widening participation in advisory processes, the topics
covered by bodies are also broadening. The broader interdisciplinary focus
has become more common in advisory processes strongly tied to technology
assessment and its impact on societies (Parker et al., 2014; Sanderson, 2006).
Hence, it appears that advice bodies in legislatures are responding to this
with secondary mandate(s) (Figure 2e) and a variety of innovative
methods and outputs (Figure 2g) for advice.
Foresight and horizon scanning for policymaking was implemented in the
UK executive branch during the 1980s (Havas & Weber, 2017), but only
recently have they been considered for legislatures. The interest in imple-
menting such advisory processes in legislatures seems to be expanding.
For instance, the European Parliament launched its ﬁrst set of foresight
studies in 2014 (Nentwich, 2016). Even among countries not members of
the European Parliamentary Technology Assessment Network, foresight
activities are growing like, for instance, in the Czech Republic, Hungary,
and Poland (Antonio & Kumi, 2016). Therefore, foresight and horizon scan-
ning are described because they are a state-of-the-art practice that appears to
be increasingly common in the legislatures investigated despite having been
implemented for several years in some countries. Foresight and horizon
scanning are typically used to anticipate issues and gather data and knowl-
edge on emerging challenges (Garnett et al., 2016). They are generally
designed for scenario building and creating adaptive strategies. They also
facilitate the creation of shared problem perceptions and visions by engaging
a broad range of stakeholders (Weber et al., 2019). Examples of this approach
can be seen in the Danish Board of Technology (Ganzevles et al., 2014; The
Danish Board of Technology, 2021), the German Oﬃce of Technology
Assessment (Oﬃce of Technology Assessment, 2021), the Finnish Commit-
tee for the Future (The Finnish Committee for the Future, 2021), and the
Dutch Rathenau Institute (Rathenau, 2021), where participation of interest
cluster representatives and citizens is key to these type of advisory process.
Foresight and horizon scanning in legislatures have recently been
implemented as a means of participatory future-oriented policy support to
set priorities and inform strategic decision-making (Cagnin et al., 2015;
Weber et al., 2019). Finland and Estonia have institutionalised foresight
activities at national legislatures, respectively, through the Finnish Commit-
tee for the Future (Antonio & Kumi, 2016) and the Foresight Centre at the
Estonian Parliament (Wilsdon et al., 2014). In contrast, other countries like
Austria recently piloted novel approaches to bring this practice forward
(Weber et al., 2019). In the Estonian case, the centre’s establishment in
16 M. ACOSTA ET AL.
2016 is one among other initiatives reﬂecting a growing shift towards fore-
sight and future scenario scanning in strategic decision-making (The Esto-
nian Foresight Centre, 2020). Similarly, the focus of the Danish Board of
Technology is on evaluating future challenges with an emphasis on foresight
work, with particular attention given to participatory methods involving citi-
zens, stakeholders, and experts as well as legislators (EPTA Network, 2021;
Ganzevles et al., 2014).
A recent pilot by the Austrian Parliament serves as a potentially helpful
model for practitioners elsewhere. Weber et al. (Weber et al., 2019)dida
pilot foresight in the Austrian Parliament to explore upcoming socio-econ-
omic challenges of industry 4.0 and evaluate the opportunities and challenges
of such an implementation in the legislative context. They discovered that
foresight could act as innovative means for legislators’dialogue with a broad
range of stakeholders such as experts and civil society. However, it was
argued that establishing meaningful and detailed dialogue among them was
a challenging task. They also discovered that foresight could provide a
thorough assessment of emerging trends and collective strategies. The legis-
lators acknowledged the experience positively for discussions of forward-
looking topics and long-term planning of complex issues. However, in some
cases, the discussions could lead to too forward-looking topics disconnected
from policy impact or challenges that are not genuinely on the horizon but
are already being treated through policies (Weber et al., 2019). Hence, a
balance between future-oriented and current policy issues should be con-
sidered when implementing foresight or horizons scanning in legislatures.
Weber et al. (Weber et al., 2019) also found several challenges during pilot
implementation. For instance, politically controversial topics were deliber-
ately avoided in the discussions. Upon discussion with legislators, they
also discovered that foresight could be a rather time-consuming activity
for the legislators’agendas. Besides, the demands from political parties
may not be contemplated enough in the process, rendering the process
with little impact on the actual legislative agenda-setting (Weber et al.,
2019). On top of these challenges, foresight and horizon scanning often
lack suﬃcient credibility and authority to inﬂuence policymaking (Schultz,
2006). Garnett et al. (Garnett et al., 2016) suggested that using a rigorous
methodology and linking it to strategic risk and uncertainty management
could encourage its usage in the policy. The reader is directed elsewhere
for further details on foresight or horizon scanning methodologies on legis-
latures (Garnett et al., 2016; Parker et al., 2014; Weber et al., 2019).
Notion of impact in advisory bodies in legislatures
Deﬁning the notion of impact for advisory bodies in legislatures is beyond
the scope of this work. To the authors’knowledge, it has not been described
THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES 17
precisely elsewhere. In general, there seems to be a lack of consistency in the
way the impact associated with advice is analyzed.
One of the main obstacles for doing a comparative analysis about the
impact of advisory bodies is that their intended eﬀect, as deﬁned in their mis-
sions, can vary substantially and even beyond legislative advice (Figure 2e)
(Kenny et al., 2017). Besides, as highlighted by Topp et al. (Topp et al.,
2018), it is required to separate the eﬀect of inputs, outputs, and outcomes
to evaluate the impact of advice appropriately. In other words, to evaluate
the eﬀectiveness of advisory bodies, there is a need to develop methodologies
that are appropriate for their speciﬁc objectives and the particular legislative
context (Topp et al., 2018). Hence, an understanding of other sources of
advice beyond the advisory bodies and their (potential) impact should also
be considered (Kenny et al., 2017).
To our knowledge, a single work, non-peer-reviewed (Kenny et al., 2021),
has been published about the impact of advice on legislation. Hence, it
remains a pristine area for research that can enhance the eﬀectiveness of
future legislative advisory processes.
Considerations of scientists working in topics relevant to legislative
This section collects the perspectives of researchers in various ﬁelds that are
not focusing on researching advisory processes but rather propose them for a
particular area and as part of their work. From data visualisation of evidence
to the creation of networking opportunities for academics and legislators, the
research under review pointed in many diﬀerent directions regarding the
potential ways scientiﬁc advice and advisory bodies could and should
develop and how it should be structured in the Future. Following Oliver
and Cairney (Oliver & Cairney, 2019), we gathered recommendations and
advice on developing impactful infrastructures to use evidence in legisla-
tures. Upon completing this literature review, we identiﬁed two macro-
areas in which advice and guidance from the literature can be organised,
i.e. areas in which commonalities were frequent across the academic publi-
cations under review:
a) Recommendations for knowledge production: forming scientiﬁc advice
The nature of knowledge production and the way it is presented to legis-
latures seem to be evolving. The shift from science advice to evidence-
informed policymaking is one of such transformations (Doubleday &
Wilsdon, 2013; Wilsdon et al., 2014), portraying a possible future of advisory
bodies taking an experimental approach to evidence-production through
scientiﬁc methods. Oliver and Cairney (Oliver & Cairney, 2019) support
18 M. ACOSTA ET AL.
this approach and identify high-quality research to inﬂuence policy through
‘speciﬁc research methods, metrics, and models’’ (p.3) as well as experimen-
tal designs such as random control trials (RCTs) (Doubleday & Wilsdon,
2013). Indeed, as pointed out by Wilsdon et al. (Wilsdon et al., 2014), gov-
ernments are moving towards increased use of experimental approaches for
policymaking. Examples of this trend can be found in the Chinese Academy
of Sciences, the new behavioural science unit in the US Oﬃce of Science and
Technology Policy, and the UK networks of ‘What Works’evidence centres.
a) Recommendations for knowledge brokering and translation: moving
from the scientiﬁc to the policy sphere
Another critical element discussed by experts in various ﬁelds is the need
for adequate knowledge brokering (Newman, 2020), i.e. the transition from
predominantly scientiﬁc or academic to outputs that are engaging and easily
of use for legislators (Oliver & Boaz, 2019; Rose, 2017). Examples of strat-
egies to achieve this could be increased use of data visualisation (Rose,
2017), reduced scientiﬁc jargon (Kenny et al., 2017), institutionalised colla-
borative practices (Estabrooks et al., 2019), and promotion of an organis-
ational culture of scientiﬁc advice in policy through leadership (Van der
Arend, 2014). This could be done in several ways, including capacity-build-
ing of academics to fully understand how parliamentary processes of debate
and scrutiny work (Cairney & Oliver, 2020), and how to produce research
outputs relevant for legislators (Kenny et al., 2017; Rose, 2017). In addition,
another strategy could be to develop fellowship schemes to raise awareness
and knowledge of parliamentary deliberation and scrutiny among aca-
demics. Kenny et al. (Kenny et al., 2017) point to schemes such as those
run by POST as examples of this type of strategy.
Networks and collaborative initiatives between diﬀerent science advice
bodies could help them share critical lessons (Beswick & Geddes, 2021
Oliver & Boaz, 2019;), leading to more eﬀective practices for governments’
advice and engaging with other audiences. In addition, the need to build
stronger relations between the scientiﬁc world and the policymaking
sphere is highlighted in the literature (Cairney & Oliver, 2020;; Kenny
et al., 2017 Rose, 2017). This would help bridge the gap between supply
and demand of research outputs, with stronger relationships between aca-
demics and legislatures built through intermediary bodies of scientiﬁc
advice leading to a more robust match between the evidence needs and
research outputs (Kenny et al., 2017). Indeed, the ‘two communities’research
area aiming to understand the research–policy ‘divide’is not new (Newman,
2020) but is still an open research area that could lead to further research
opportunities with concrete practice-oriented outcomes.
THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES 19
This contribution provides a systematic analysis of recent literature using a
typology of legislative advisory bodies. Our goal was to understand research
trends and gaps related to scientiﬁc advisory bodies in legislatures and their
processes of advice. The typology used for the analysis includes 12 categories
deﬁned to oﬀer critical insights related to the contextual background,
mandate, structure, and process of advice of legislative advisory bodies
and evaluate potential upcoming trends in the research and practice of
this area. Using this approach, we found that:
1) Most of the work focuses on advisory bodies located in western and high-
income countries, with a substantial majority concentrating in European
countries. Surprisingly, we did not ﬁnd recent information in English or
Spanish about the topic in Asian high-income countries.
2) Legislative advisory bodies can have several goals and objectives beyond
legislative advice, and most of the work does not provide a critical com-
parative analysis of their practices or objectives. Moreover, there are no
peer-reviewed studies about the impact or eﬀectiveness of advice in
3) The staﬀroles within advisory bodies vary substantially amongst the
4) Several advisory bodies have legislators as their members, or they may
have legislators in their governing body or legislators may inﬂuence the
process of scientiﬁc advice. We describe here the involvement of legis-
lators in the advisory body or advice process as a potential degree of
politicisation and notice that in many legislative advisory bodies the
potential politicisation degree is high. Particularly, Botswana (Library
and Information Services Unit), Germany (Oﬃce of Technology
Assessment and Enquete Commissions), Finland (Committee for the
Future), the United Kingdom (POST), Sweden (Evaluation and
Research Secretariat), Greece (Committee on Technology Assessment),
Chile (National Congress Library), and France (OPECST) seem to have
a higher degree of politicisation than countries like Estonia (Foresight
Centre), Denmark (Danish Board of Technology), New Zealand (Parlia-
mentary Library), the United States (Congressional Research Service),
Switzerland (TA Swiss), and the Netherlands (Rathenau Institute).
The countries with a high degree of politicisation indicate that most
assumptions in the literature claim that legislative science advice
should have a more unbiased and non-political nature due to the legis-
lative scrutiny and debate. Indeed, contrary to our expectations, legisla-
tive guidance does not appear too distant from executive branch
20 M. ACOSTA ET AL.
5) Foresight and horizons scanning seem to be upcoming novel method-
ologies being implemented in legislatures for participatory future-
forward thinking advisory and to set long-term priorities in agenda.
1. Although Austria (Bauer & Kastenhofer, 2019; Ganzevles et al., 2014; Weber
et al., 2019) and Portugal (Almeida, 2015; Böhle & Moniz, 2015; Hennen
et al., 2016) were countries explored in the literature on scientiﬁc advice to leg-
islatures, these cases were not included in the supplementary material nor in
the typology. This is due to the fact that the research outputs dealing with
such countries are explorative and future-oriented in nature, meaning that
they are not based on an existing parliamentary advisory body, but rather
assess the possibilities for their creation in the respective countries.
No potential conﬂict of interest was reported by the author(s).
This work was supported by the Postdoctoral Academy, the University of Cam-
bridge, under the UK-Canada Fellowship.
Notes on contributors
Matias Acosta is a fellow at the Centre for Science & Policy at the University of Cam-
bridge, the Head of Exploration at the UNDP Accelerator Lab in Argentina, and CEO
of Shaping Horizons, a social enterprise developed to foster open innovation and
diplomacy for sustainability. He works at the interface between science, policy,
Matias Nestore is a Ph.D. Candidate at the School of International Studies, Univer-
sity of Trento. He holds an MPhil in Education and International Development from
the University of Cambridge, and his research spans local development, international
cooperation, and public policy.
María Estelí Jarquín-Solís is the Deputy Director of International Aﬀairs at the Uni-
versity of Costa Rica. She is a political scientist, expert in Science Diplomacy and
Science Advice to Governments. She is part of the INGSA Steering Committee.
Robert Doubleday has been Executive Director of the Centre for Science and Policy
(CSaP) since September 2012. Previously Rob established CSaP’s research pro-
gramme. His research interests include the role of science, evidence, and expertise
in contemporary societies, particularly the relationship between scientiﬁc advice,
public policy, and democracy. His research develops collaborative methods of
working with scientists and engineers on the public policy dimensions of their
THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES 21
M. Acosta http://orcid.org/0000-0001-9504-883X
Matias Nestore http://orcid.org/0000-0002-7736-2857
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