Parliamentary Committees in the Policy Process

An international collaboration organized by the Research Committee 08 – Legislative Specialists (RCLS/ RC08) of the International Political Science Association (IPSA).

Parliamentary Committees are often seen as the central place where policy is made in modern democracies. They do exist in almost all parliaments today, in democratic and non-democratic systems, in parliamentary and presidential democracies. Political science has provided very useful comparative studies on the formal settings of committees in Western democracies, but some of them need to be updated after a few decades have passed. There has also been some investigation on committee assignment and its determinants more recently. However, what exactly is going on inside committees has not been studied very much, not the least because committees traditionally have held their sessions closed to the public in many parliaments and thus data access has been difficult.

As a first step towards better understanding, a more explorative approach is necessary to figure out what goes on in committees, how it is related to institutional characteristics and what the current developments are.

The project aims to build on the existing research and go beyond it by following three goals:

  1. to update the studies of institutional indicators in order to reflect recent changes in formal procedures and informal practices,
  2. to extend the perspective beyond the walls of the parliamentary buildings and investigate the influence of parliamentary committees – and the actors within them – in the respective policy networks,
  3. to broaden the perspective beyond liberal democracies and include political systems in current or recent transition.

Contributors to this research project have developed and discussed a common research framework during and after a joint workshop held in Valencia, Spain, in October 2019. It combines a neo-institutional perspective with the catalogues of parliamentary functions and the research framework of the policy cycle.

The main objective of the project is to work out the role of parliamentary committees in policy making of various political systems through a detailed and thick description of country cases based on a common research framework. By investigating committees in numerous parliaments, it can lead to a better academic understanding, help to improve parliamentary communication and assist in parliamentary development efforts worldwide.

The first results were published in 2021 in Parliamentary Committees in the Policy Process edited by Hilmar Rommetvedt and Sven T. Siefken and published by Routledge.