The role of experts in political decision-making: enabling, constraining, accountable?

Expertise provides a key input to political decision-making. Its role is all the more relevant as legislation and regulation increasingly extend to areas characterised by high technical complexity. The interaction between technical and democratic sources of legitimacy is however not always uncontroversial, e.g. in cases of scientific uncertainty.
Starting from a comparative analysis of institutional arrangements in place at European and national level, the paper seeks to clarify three main points: what counts as regulatory expertise (i.e. what credentials should experts have to count as such in a given institutional context); what functions does it perform with regard to political decision-making; how can it be held to account, in ways that reflect its peculiarities. It argues that expertise can both enable and constrain the exercise of political discretion, resulting in a mixed epistemic and political authority, and explores possible avenues for legal and political accountability.