Policy Sciences

, Volume 51, Issue 2, pp 213–229 | Cite as

A novel understanding of experimentation in governance: co-producing innovations between “lab” and “field”

  • Jan-Peter VoßEmail author
  • Arno Simons
Research Article


What do experiments do for governance? Along with pragmatist and performative conceptions, we argue that they do not test already existing conditions of governing, but actively transform such conditions. Experiments help to realize specific models of governance by co-producing collective knowledge and material practices. We analyze a series of experiments with “emissions trading” in the USA between 1968 and 2000. The historical perspective shows how different types of experiments worked together: experiments in the laboratory and in the field supported each other in creating epistemic and political authority. This “ping-pong between lab and field” produced subjects and objects, facts and values, knowledge and power and aligned them in a new socio-material configuration, thus realizing emissions trading as a new form of governance.


Experimental governance Policy innovation Policy design Policy instrument Emissions trading Science and technology studies Performativity Epistemic authority Political authority Science–policy interaction 


  1. Abbott, K. W., & Snidal, D. (2016). Experimentalist governance 2.0: taking “Experiments” (More) Seriously. Working paper: Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  2. Ansell, C. K., & Bartenberger, M. (2016). Varieties of experimentalism. Ecological Economics, 130, 64–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ansell, C., & Geyer, R. (2016). ‘Pragmatic complexity’ a new foundation for moving beyond ‘evidence-based policy making’? Policy Studies. Scholar
  4. Bohi, D. R., & Burtraw, D. (1992). Utility investment behavior and the emission trading market. Resources and Energy, 14(1), 129–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bulkeley, H., & Castán Broto, V. (2013). Government by experiment? Global cities and the governing of climate change. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 38(3), 361–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Callon, M. (2007). What does it mean to say that economics is performative? In D. MacKenzie, F. Muniesa, & L. Siu (Eds.), Do economists make markets? On the performativity of economics (pp. 311–357). Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Callon, M. (2009). Civilizing markets: Carbon trading between in vitro and in vivo experiments. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 34(3–4), 535–548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Callon, M., Lascoumes, P., & Barthe, Y. (2009). Acting in an uncertain world: An essay on technical democracy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  9. Campbell, D. T. (1969). Reforms as experiments. American Psychologist, 24(4), 409–429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cason, T. N., & Plott, C. R. (1996). EPA’s new emissions trading mechanism: A laboratory evaluation. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 30(2), 133–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Coase, R. H. (1960). The problem of social cost. Journal of Law and Economics, 3(October), 1–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cook, B. J. (1988). Bureaucratic politics and regulatory reform. The EPA and emission trading. Westport: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  13. Crocker, T. D. (1966). The structuring of atmospheric pollution control systems. In H. Wolozin (Ed.), The economics of air pollution (pp. 61–86). New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  14. Dales, J. H. (1968). Pollution, property, and prices. Toronto: Toronto University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Dewey, J. (1986 [1938]). Logic: The theory of inquiry (John Dewey. The later works 1925–1953, volume 12: 1938). Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Dewey, J. (2012 [1927]). The public and its problems: An essay in political inquiry. University Park, PA: Penn State Press.Google Scholar
  17. Disch, L. (2010). ‘Faitiche’-izing the people: What representative democracy might learn from science studies. In B. Braun, S. J. Whatmore, & I. Stengers (Eds.), Political matter: Technoscience, democracy, and public life (pp. 267–296). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  18. Disch, L. (2011). Toward a mobilization conception of democratic representation. American Political Science Review, 105(01), 100–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dobbin, F., Simmons, B., & Garrett, G. (2007). The global diffusion of public policies: Social construction, coercion, competition, or learning? Annual Review Sociology, 33, 449–472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dudek, D. J., & Palmisano, J. (1987). Emissions trading: Why is this thoroughbred hobbled. Columbia Journal of Environmental Law, 13, 217–258.Google Scholar
  21. Elgert, L. (2010). Politicizing sustainable development: The co-production of globalized evidence-based policy. Critical Policy Studies, 3(3–4), 375–390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ellerman, D., & Harrison, D. (2003). Emissions trading in the US: Experience, lessons, and considerations for greenhouse gases. Los Angeles: Pew Center on Global Climate Change.Google Scholar
  23. Ellerman, A. D., Joskow, P. L., Schmalensee, R., Montero, J.-P., & Bailey, E. M. (2000). Markets for clean air. The U.S. acid rain program. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Evans, K. G. (2000). Reclaiming John Dewey: Democracy, inquiry, pragmatism, and public management. Administration & Society, 32(3), 308–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gieryn, T. F. (1983). Boundary-work and the demarcation of science from non-science: Strains and interests in professional ideologies of scientists. American Sociological Review, 48(6), 781–795.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gomart, E., & Hajer, M. A. (2003). Is that politics? For an inquiry into forms in contemporary politics. In B. Joerges & H. Nowotny (Eds.), Social studies of science and technology: Looking back, ahead (pp. 33–61). Dordrecht: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gorman, H. S., & Solomon, B. D. (2002). The origins and practice of emissions trading. Journal of Policy History, 14(3), 293–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Guala, F. (2007). How to do things with experimental economics. In D. MacKenzie, F. Muniesa, & L. Siu (Eds.), Do economists make markets? On the performativity of economics (pp. 128–162). Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Guston, D. H. (1999). Stabilizing the boundary between the US politics and science. The role of the office of technology transfer as a boundary organization. Social Studies of Science, 29(1), 87–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Guston, D. H. (2001). Boundary organizations in environmental policy and science: An introduction. Science, Technology and Human Values, 26(4), 399–408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Habermas, J. (1990). Moral consciousness and communicative action. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  32. Hahn, R. W., & Hester, G. L. (1989). Where did all the markets go-an analysis of EPA’s emissions trading program. Yale Journal on Regulation, 6, 109.Google Scholar
  33. Hoffmann, M. J. (2011). Climate governance at the crossroads: Experimenting with a global response after Kyoto. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hyde, S. D. (2015). Experiments in international relations: Lab, survey, and field. Annual Review of Political Science, 18, 403–424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Jasanoff, S. (1987). Contested boundaries in policy-relevant science. Social Studies of Science, 17(2), 195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Jasanoff, S. (1990). The fifth branch. Science advisors as policymakers. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Jasanoff, S. (2004a). The idiom of co-production. In S. Jasanoff (Ed.), States of knowledge: The co-production of science and social order (pp. 1–12). London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Jasanoff, S. (2004b). Ordering knowledge, ordering society. In S. Jasanoff (Ed.), States of knowledge: The co-production of science and the social order (pp. 13–43). London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Jordan, A., & Huitema, D. (2014). Policy innovation in a changing climate: Sources, patterns and effects. Global Environmental Change, 29, 387–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Knorr Cetina, K. (1992). The couch, the cathedral and the laboratory. On the relationship between experiment and laboratory in science. In A. Pickering (Ed.), Science as practice and culture (pp. 113–138). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  41. Knorr Cetina, K. (2007). Culture in global knowledge societies: Knowledge cultures and epistemic cultures. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 32(4), 361–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Knorr Cetina, K., & Mulkay, M. (1983). Science observed: New perspectives on the social study of science. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  43. Lane, R. (2012). The promiscuous history of market efficiency: The development of early emissions trading systems. Environmental Politics, 21(4), 583–603.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Latour, B. (1983). Give me a laboratory and I will raise the world. In K. Knorr-Cetina & M. Mulkay (Eds.), Science observed. Perspectives on the social studies of science (pp. 142–169). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  45. Latour, B. (1987). Science in action. How to follow scientists and engineers through society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Latour, B. (2003). What if we talked politics a little? Contemporary Political Theory, 2(2), 143–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Latour, B. (2013). An inquiry into modes of existence. An anthropology of the moderns. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Lindblom, C. E. (1959). The science of “muddling through”. Public Administration Review, 19(2), 79–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Lindblom, C. E. (1965). The intelligence of democracy. Decision making through mutual adjustment. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  50. Lövbrand, E. (2011). Co-producing European climate science and policy: A cautionary note on the making of useful knowledge. Science and Public Policy, 38(3), 225–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Mann, C., & Voß, J.-P. (2018). Challenging futures: Concepts for engaging with dynamics of policy instrument design. In M. Padnamabhan (Ed.), Transdisciplinarity for sustainability (pp. 267–289). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  52. Marcus, A. A. (1980). Promise and performance. Choosing and implementing an environmental policy. Westport, CT: Greenwood.Google Scholar
  53. Meidinger, E. (1985). On explaining the development of ‘emissions trading’ in U.S. air pollution regulation 10. Law and Policy, 7(4), 447–479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Miller, C. A. (2004). Climate science and the making of a global political order. In S. Jasanoff (Ed.), States of knowledge: The coproduction of science and social order (pp. 46–66). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  55. Montgomery, W. D. (1972). Markets in licenses and efficient pollution control programs. Journal of Economic Theory, 5(3), 395–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Muniesa, F., & Callon, M. (2007). Economic experiments and the construction of markets. In D. MacKenzie, F. Muniesa, & L. Siu (Eds.), Do economists make markets? On the performativity of economics (pp. 163–189). Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  57. Nutley, S. M., Smith, P. C., & Davies, H. T. (2000). What works? Evidence-based policy and practice in public services. Briston: Policy Press.Google Scholar
  58. Oates, W. E. (2000). From research to policy: the case of environmental economics. International Journal of Urban Sciences, 4(1), 1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Peck, J., & Theodore, N. (2010). Mobilizing policy: Models, methods, and mutations. Geoforum, 41(2), 169–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Pickering, A. (Ed.). (1992). Science as practice and culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  61. Pickering, A. (1995). The mangle of practice: Time, agency, and science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Pigou, A. C. (1920). The economics of welfare. London: MacMillan.Google Scholar
  63. Pooley, E. (2010). The climate war: True believers, power brokers, and the fight to save the earth. Wiley: e-book.Google Scholar
  64. Popper, K. R. (1957). The poverty of historicism. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  65. Rosanvallon, P. (2006). Democracy past and future. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  66. Rouse, J. (1987). Knowledge and power: Toward a political philosophy of science. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  67. Rouse, J. (2011). Articulating the world: Experimental systems and conceptual understanding. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 25(3), 243–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Sabel, C. F., & Zeitlin, J. (2010). Experimentalist governance in the European Union: Towards a new architecture. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  69. Sanderson, I. (2002). Evaluation, policy learning and evidence-based policy making. Public Administration, 80(1), 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Saward, M. (2006). The representative claim. Contemporary Political Theory, 5(3), 297–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Schäpke, N., Stelzer, F., Bergmann, M., & Lang, D. J. (2016). Tentative theses on transformative research in real-world laboratories. First insights from the accompanying research forreal1. Technikfolgenabschätzung. Theorie und Praxis, 25(3), 41–45.Google Scholar
  72. Schroth, F. (2016). The politics of governance experiments. Constructing the clean development mechanism. Doctoral dissertation. Berlin: Technische Universität Berlin.
  73. Shapin, S. (1984). Pump and circumstance: Robert Boyle’s literary technology. Social Studies of Science, 14(4), 481–520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Shapin, S., & Schaffer, S. (1985). Leviathan and the air-pump: Hobbes, boyle, and the experimental life. NJ: Princeton University Press Princeton.Google Scholar
  75. Simons, A. (2015). Documented authority. The discursive construction of emissions trading in the expert literature. Doctoral Dissertation. Berlin: Technische Universität Berlin.Google Scholar
  76. Simons, A. (2016). Fact-making in permit markets: Document networks as infrastructures of emissions trading. In J.-P. Voß & R. Freeman (Eds.), Knowing governance. The epistemic construction of political order (pp. 177–192). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  77. Simons, A., Lis, A., & Lippert, I. (2014). The political duality of scale-making in environmental markets. Environmental Politics, 23(4), 632–649.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Simons, A., & Voß, J.-P. (2015). Politics by other means. The making of the emissions trading instrument as a ‘pre-history’ of carbon trading. In B. Stephan & R. Lane (Eds.), The politics of carbon markets (pp. 51–68). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  79. Simons, A., & Voß, J.-P. (2018). The concept of instrument constituencies: Accounting for dynamics and practices of knowing governance. Policy & Society, 37(1), 14–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Stavins, R. N. (1998). What can we learn from the grand policy experiment? Lessons from SO2 allowance trading. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 69–88.Google Scholar
  81. Stoker, G. (2010). Translating experiments into policy. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 628(1), 47–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Strassheim, H., & Kettunen, P. (2014). When does evidence-based policy turn into policy-based evidence? Configurations, contexts and mechanisms. Evidence & Policy: A Journal of Research, Debate and Practice, 10(2), 259–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Tietenberg, T. H. (1985). Emissions trading. An exercise in reforming pollution policy. Washington, DC: Ressources for the Future.Google Scholar
  84. Voß, J.-P. (2007a). Designs on governance. Development of policy instruments and dynamics in governance. Ph.D. thesis. Enschede: University of Twente. Accessed 28 Feb 2018.
  85. Voß, J.-P. (2007b). Innovation processes in governance: The development of ‘emissions trading’ as a new policy instrument. Science and Public Policy, 34(5), 329–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Voß, J.-P. (2010). Innovation of governance: The case of emissions trading. In M. J. Arentsen, W. Rossum, & A. E. Stenge (Eds.), Governance of innovation: Firms, clusters and institutions in a changing setting (pp. 125–148). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  87. Voß, J.-P. (2014). Performative policy studies: Realizing ‘transition management’. Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research, 27(4), 317–343.Google Scholar
  88. Voß, J.-P. (2016a). Realizing instruments: Performativity in emissions trading and citizen panels. In J.-P. Voß & R. Freeman (Eds.), Knowing governance. The epistemic construction of political order (pp. 127–154). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  89. Voß, J.-P. (2016b). Reflexively engaging with technologies of participation. Constructive assessment for public participation methods. In J. Chilvers & M. B. Kearnes (Eds.), Remaking participation: Science, environment and emergent publics (pp. 238–260). London: Routledge-Earthscan.Google Scholar
  90. Voß, J.-P., & Bornemann, B. (2011). The politics of reflexive governance: Challenges for designing adaptive management and transition management. Ecology and Society, 16(2), 9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Voß, J.-P., & Freeman, R. (Eds.). (2016). Knowing governance. The epistemic construction of political order. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  92. Voß, J.-P., & Kemp, R. (2006). Sustainability and reflexive governance: Introduction. In J.-P. Voß, D. Bauknecht & R. Kemp (Eds.), Reflexive governance for sustainable developement (pp. 3–28). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  93. Voß, J.-P., & Schroth, F. (2018). Experimentation: The politics of innovation and learning in polycentric governance. In A. Jordan, D. Huitema, H. Van Asselt, & J. Forster (Eds.), Governing climate change: Polycentricity in Action. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  94. Voß, J.-P., & Simons, A. (2014). Instrument constituencies and the supply-side of policy innovation: The social life of emissions trading. Environmental Politics, 23(5), 735–754.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Wilkinson, M. A. (2012). Dewey’s’ democracy without politics’: On the failures of liberalism and the frustrations of experimentalism. Contemporary Pragmatism, 9(2), 117–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin)BerlinGermany
  2. 2.Deutsches Zentrum für Hochschul- und Wissenschaftsforschung (DZHW)Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin)BerlinGermany

Personalised recommendations