Josef Lolacher awarded research fellowship by Austrian Parliament

DPhil in Politics student Josef Lolacher has been awarded a research fellowship by the Austrian Parliament for his research project ‘Do members of parliament listen to experts or ordinary citizens? The role of expert knowledge in the decision-making of MPs’.

His project was chosen as the winning project in the Parliament’s ‘Research Year in Parliament' programme. The Research Year in Parliament is awarded annually and given to a research project on a subject relevant to Parliament.

In his research, Josef examines the decision-making of parliamentarians in the conflict between expert knowledge and public opinion in three parliamentary democracies: Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom. In recent years, representative democracy has come under fierce attack from two very different sides: On one side, populists have accused political representatives of disregarding voters’ preferences and bypassing “the people” in policymaking. On the other side, a technocratic critique emerged, blaming politicians for merely following polls and focusing on short-term electoral success rather than developing long-term strategies based on scientific evidence. In this context, he investigates how individual politicians decide on policies when expert knowledge and public are at odds.

He undertakes the first comparative study of how national MPs draw on different types of knowledge when making political decisions.

The announcement of the fellowship award was made at the Day of Parliamentary Research on June 20 and Josef was invited to present his research project there.

He commented: 

“I’m deeply honoured to have been awarded the ‘Research Year in the Austrian Parliament.’ This is an invaluable opportunity for a researcher, offering unparalleled access to a national parliament and the comprehensive support of the Austrian parliamentary administration. 

“I’m confident this experience will greatly facilitate achieving my research objectives, providing me with the resources and insights necessary to conduct thorough and impactful research.”