What is the role of experts in understanding social change? Expert judgment today is both intensely sought out, across private and public spheres, and also intensely criticised and derided with well-publicised failures to predict various high profile social and natural phenomena. Does the problem lie with the very idea that objective expertise about complex processes is attainable? Or does it stem from the way that expert judgment is developed and communicated? Or, perhaps it reflects the diminished standing of experts and expert knowledge in democratic and pluralistic societies? To explore these questions, we propose three case studies in which expert judgment is both consequential and controversial. They are the UK Government’s emergency response, the use of agglomeration theory in city planning, and deep philosophical controversies about the possibility and objectivity of social science. These cases differ in scope and focus but they enable us to analyse four distinct features of legitimate expertise: sensitivity to temporal scale, translatability in space, ambivalence about precision, and moral responsibility. The overarching goal of the project is to establish a broad framework for understanding what makes expertise authoritative, when experts overreach, and what realistic demands communities should place on experts.

This project is part of the Centre for the Humanities and Social Change, Cambridge, funded by the Humanities and Social Change International Foundation.


From left to right: Robert Doubleday, Anna Alexandrova, Emily So and Michael Kenny

Click here to meet the team.


Forthcoming Events

Previous Events

The Politics of Economics Seminars

Conferences and Workshops

Expert Bites Seminars

  • Expert Bites Seminar with Geoff Mulgan (UCL IRIS), 20 October 2020
  • Expert Bites Seminar with Alfred Moore (Politics, University of York), 28 November 2019
  • Expert Bites with Alice Vadrot (Political Science, University of Vienna), 21 June 2019
  • Expert Bites with Arsenii Khitrov (Sociology, Cambridge), 22 May 2019
  • Expert Bites with Elizabeth Anderson (Philosophy, University of Michigan), 15 May 2019
  • Expert Bites with Mike Hulme (Geography, Cambridge), 26 March 2019

Centre for Science and Policy Forum/ Expertise Under Pressure events

  • Centre for Science and Policy Forum: What is Progress? 23 November 2019
  • Centre for Science and Policy Forum: Summer Roundtable, 8 May 2019


Cléo Chassonnery-Zaïgouche, ‘Economists Entered the ‘Number Games.The Early Reception of Wage Decomposition Methods in the U.S. Courtrooms (1971–1989)’, Journal of the History of Economic Thought (2020)

Cléo Chassonnery-Zaïgouche, ‘Introduction to Symposium: Economists in Courts’, Journal of the History of Economic Thought, vol 42 issue 2, (June 2020), pp.199–202

Cléo Chassonnery-Zaïgouche, Beatrice Cherrier and John Singleton, ‘ ‘Out in the open’ controversy: Economists’ perspectives on the first gender reckoning in economics’ in Shelly Lundberg (ed.), Women in Economics (CEPR, 2020)

Ramandeep Singh and Anna Alexandrova ‘Happiness economics as technocracy’, Behavioral Science and Policy, vol 4 (July 2020), pp.236–244


Federico Brandmayr, ‘Public Epistemologies and Intellectual Interventions in Contemporary Italy’, International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society (2019), pp. 1–22. (Open access).

Federico Brandmayr, book review of The Dark Side of Podemos? by Josh Booth and Patrick Baert, The Sociological Review (24 June 2019)


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk