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Negotiating Power: Interviews with the Policy Elite: Stories from Hungary Lost between Genres

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-32
JournalEuropean Educational Research Journal
Issue number2
Published1 Jun 2011

King's Authors


This article looks at methodological issues arising from collecting data from policy makers. Interview episodes highlight how the processes of role-ascription and the negotiation of competences between the interviewee and the interviewer can be meaningful in terms of the analysis of ‘elite interviews’. In the interviews, the interactions reveal how the informant makes sense of the relation between research, knowledge and policy-making. In illustrating how the informant presents himself/herself as policy-maker and ascribes the role of the researcher, the data condense the efforts to bridge different cognitive worlds on both sides and help us understand the working of the institutional-organizational context within which the informant is embedded. This negotiation may be very complex indeed if the informant wishes to maintain a positioning as a researcher as well as a policy-maker, something that is increasingly common as evidence-informed policy-making brings research and policy into closer relationship. The article draws on the experiences of interviewing and data collection for the KnowandPol project, with attention to the politics of the specific context of Hungary. It concludes that context is highly significant in both negotiating and making sense of interviews with policy-makers. It highlights the specific circumstances of enquiry in post-Socialist regimes, where uncertainty about role and status is present on both sides. With the scientization of policy-making, policy-makers as commissioners of various analyses tend to understand themselves as competent readers of social sciences who are also conversant with social science discourse. This also shapes their expectations towards the interview situation and the way they want to present themselves.

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