Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Rethinking epistemic communities twenty years later


The concept of epistemic communities – professional networks with authoritative and policy-relevant expertise – is well-known thanks to a 1992 special issue of International Organization. Over the past twenty years, the idea has gained some traction in International Relations scholarship, but has not evolved much beyond its original conceptualisation. Much of the research on epistemic communities has been limited to single case studies in articles, rather than broader comparative works, and has focused narrowly on groups of scientists. As a result, it is often assumed, erroneously, that epistemic communities are only comprised of scientists, and that the utility of the concept for understanding International Relations is quite narrow. Consequently, an otherwise promising approach to transnational networks has become somewhat marginalised over the years. This article revisits the concept of epistemic communities twenty years later and proposes specific innovations to the framework. In an increasingly globalising world, transnational actors are becoming progressively more numerous and influential. Epistemic communities are certainly at the forefront of these trends, and a better understanding of how they form and operate can give us a clear demonstration of how knowledge translates into power.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Anthony Zito , ‘Epistemic communities, collective entrepreneurship and European integration’, Journal of European Public Policy, 8:4 (2001), pp. 585603

Amy Verdun , ‘The role of the Delors Committee in the creation of EMU: an epistemic community?’, Journal of European Public Policy, 6:2 (1999), pp. 308–28

Clair Gough and Simon Shackley , ‘The respectable politics of climate change: the epistemic communities and NGOs’, International Affairs, 77:2 (2001), pp. 329–45

Jeremy Youde , ‘The Development of a Counter-Epistemic Community: AIDS, South Africa, and International Regimes’, International Relations, 19:4 (2005), pp. 421–39

Mai'a K. Davis Cross , Security Integration in Europe: How Knowledge-based Networks are Transforming the European Union (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2011)

Peter Haas , ‘Introduction: Epistemic Communities and International Policy Coordination’, International Organization, 46:1 (1992), p. 3

John Peterson and Elizabeth Bomberg , Decision-Making in the European Union (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1999)

John Peterson , ‘Decision-making in the European Union: towards a framework for analysis’, Journal of European Public Policy, 2:1 (1995), pp. 6993

Andrew Jordan and John Greenway , ‘Shifting agendas, changing regulatory structures and the “new” politics of environmental pollution: British coastal water policy, 1955–1995’, Public Administration, 76 (1998), pp. 669–94

Peter A. Hall , ‘Policy paradigms, social learning, and the state: the case of economic policymaking in Britain’, Comparative Politics, 25:3 (1993), pp. 275–96

Paul Sabatier , ‘The advocacy coalition framework: revisions and relevance for Europe’, Journal of European Public Policy, 5:1 (1998), pp. 98130

Clair Dunlop , ‘Epistemic Communities: A Reply to Toke’, Politics, 20:3 (2000), pp. 137–44

David Toke , ‘Epistemic Communities and Environmental Groups’, Politics, 19:2 (1999), pp. 97102

Adler , ‘The Spread of Security Communities: Communities of Practice, Self-Restraint, and NATO's Post-Cold War Transformation’, European Journal of International Relations, 14:2 (2008), pp. 195230

Colin Hay , ‘Crisis and the structural transformation of the state: interrogating the process of change’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 1:3 (1999), pp. 317–44

Mai'a K. Davis Cross , ‘An EU Homeland Security? Sovereignty vs. Supranational Order’, European Security, 16:1 (2007), pp. 7997

Peter Haas , ‘When does power listen to truth? A constructivist approach to the policy process’, Journal of European Public Policy, 11:4 (2004), pp. 575–6

Katy Wilkinson , Philip Lowe , and Andrew Donaldson . ‘Beyond Policy Networks: Policy Framing and the Politics of Expertise in the 2001 Foot and Mouth Disease Crisis’, Public Administration, 88:2 (2010), pp. 331–45

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Review of International Studies
  • ISSN: 0260-2105
  • EISSN: 1469-9044
  • URL: /core/journals/review-of-international-studies
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 51
Total number of PDF views: 432 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 1550 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd August 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.