Consultants are increasingly a part of public policy formulation, and their policy involvement draws extensive interest in research and public debate. However, there is a gap in how we think about their formulation role: they are often conceptualized as a type of expert, while their actual interaction with and contribution to policy formulation is much more varied. This paper develops a conceptualization of consultants' formulation roles. It demonstrates that rather than just informing policy formulation, consultants take multiple roles and interact with policymaking and makers in multiple ways. Using a policy network/subsystem distinction and a substance/process distinction as the main axes for analysis, the paper develops four role categories: (1) experts and knowledge brokers, in which consultants provide policy advice and analysis; (2) seeing for the government, in which they construct a picture of the policy field; (3) legitimizers and validators, in which they provide symbolic capital to policy; and (4) channels for stakeholders' policy preferences, in which they manage deliberation and synthesize actors' policy preferences. The paper provides much-needed clarity on how consultants engage with policy formulation and policymakers and forwards our understanding of how consultants exert their policy influence.
Marciano, R. (2023). More than just experts for hire: A conceptualization of the roles of consultants in public policy formulation. Policy Studies Journal, 51(3), 573–585. https://doi.org/10.1111/psj.12495