Getting beyond the 'official line': reflections on dilemmas of access, knowledge, and power in researching policy networks

Duke, Karen L. ORCID logoORCID: (2002) Getting beyond the 'official line': reflections on dilemmas of access, knowledge, and power in researching policy networks. Journal of Social Policy, 31 (1) . pp. 39-59. ISSN 0047-2794 [Article] (doi:10.1017/S0047279402006505)


Although the policy network approach has moved to the forefront of the debates around the formulation and development of policy, there is a paucity of methodological and reflexive literature which explores how policy networks and the actors within these arenas are actually studied. Researching powerful individuals within such networks generates a unique set of dilemmas and complexities for the researcher. Drawing on my experiences of researching the policy networks involved in the development of prison drugs policy, this paper provides a methodological and reflexive account of the key processes and issues involved in my research. In particular, it explores the political dimensions of the research problem and the importance of switching the research gaze from the ‘objects’ of policy to those who are in the powerful positions of ‘making’ policy. In order to understand the interactions within the policy process, it is argued that the qualitative approach offers distinct advantages in studying policy networks. The paper examines my attempts to uncover and understand the role and influence of policy networks in the development of prison drugs policy and the ways in which I grappled with the dilemmas of access, knowledge and power which emerged during the course of the fieldwork. Although the importance of transparent methodologies and reflexivity are highlighted, the paper concludes by suggesting that the resistance on the part of researchers to providing such accounts is related to the pressures and constraints of the current academic climate.

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > School of Law > Criminology and Sociology
ISI Impact: 12
Item ID: 309
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Depositing User: Repository team
Date Deposited: 04 Nov 2008 12:44
Last Modified: 23 Jun 2022 10:48

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