Playing by the rules? How community actors use experts and evidence to oppose coal seam gas activity in Australia

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    Evidence-Based Policy Making advocates for greater attention to evidence, and particularly technical evidence and expertise, in developing policy. This pervasive paradigm presents community actors with a conundrum: how to engage in ways that are consistent with the norms and expectations of policy consultation, whilst also representing the nature and nuance of their lived experience? In this paper we explore one response to this conundrum, in which community actors adopt and adapt technical knowledge claims alongside their lived experience to pursue their case. Using the conflict over Coal Seam Gas development in New South Wales, Australia, we explored community actors’ interpretations and use of evidence and expertise in seeking to make their voices heard and their knowledge count. Analysis of qualitative interviews found community actors seemed compelled to conform with expectations of policy influence, producing and using technical knowledge and evidence, and drawing on scientific expertise and evidence, presenting these in a rational and objective way. This research also finds a complicated relationship between different forms of knowledge, with local knowledge enhancing technical expertise. Emotions, though deeply felt by the community actors in our research, were not seen as convincing to policy decision makers. The Evidence-Based Policy Making paradigm seems to be constraining what community actors feel they must contribute to be seen as legitimate actors, as well as how they contribute it.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalEnergy Research & Social Science
    Publication statusPublished - 2021


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