The intersection between science and policy: the case of the development of Belgian drug policy between 1996 and 2003

Research Period

1 January 2009 - 31 december 2015


University of Ghent



Key Words

Drug policy, knowledge utilization, Evidence-based


Like in other related policy domains, the notion ‘evidence-based’ drug policy came apparent during the 1990s. The movement to late modernity has changed the experience of drug use and welfare and the political meaning of both: new freedoms, new consumption patterns of drugs, new crimes,... were created (Hartnoll, 2004; Carrabine e.a., 2004). Clearly, as long as drug use was seen as a part of marginalized and minority groups, it was possible to confine it to a limited place on the policy agenda (Gusfield, 1975). Defining social problems as those of marginalised or minority people was a way of depolitizing problems. In late modern society, drug use is ubiquitous throughout the world and it became a subject of political debate (South, 1999). At that time, drug research also became ‘internationalised’. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and the Pompidou Group have played an important role in initiating the scientific – policy debate. Both institutes were formed to identify gaps in knowledge in order to strengthen the research base for promoting evidence-based policy (Stimson & Judd in Stimson, 1997; Hartnoll, 2004).

How science and policy interact specifically has not received adequate attention in the drug area. The goal of this research will be to explore (and declare) how (scientific) research has contributed to the national drug policy in Belgium. Through awell-documented case study (i.e. the Belgian federal parliamentary debate about the cannabis policy), we aim to understand the role of (scientific) research in the debate, what counts as (scientific) research, who are the users and how do they use (scientific) research. Although it is assumed that governments make use of the research which they commissioned and paid for, there may be a disjunction between the ideal and reality (Weiss, 2001). Understanding how different actors and institutions influence the use of (scientific) research within policy processes, may enhance the interplay between scientific research and the policy making process. Although knowledge (or science/research) also may contribute to service providers (practice), we only focus on the uptake of knowledge by policy-makers (Haines e.a., 2004).



A qualitative research design was set up:

  1. Discourse analysis of policy documents (government, parliament)
  2. Discourse analysis of newspaper articles
  3. Interviews with key actors

Valorisation: publications and lectures

  • TIEBERGHIEN, J. (2017). Change or Continuity in Drug Policy. The roles of Science, Media and Interest Groups. New York: Routledge.
  • TIEBERGHIEN, J. & MONAGHAN, M. (2017). Public Scholarship and the Evidence Movement: Understanding and Learning from Belgian Drug Policy Development. European Journal of Criminology (accepted).
  • TIEBERGHIEN, J. (2017). Interviewing political 'elites': methodological challenges and opportunities in 'studying up'. Paper presented as part of the 'Symposium on interviewing 'elites' in social sciences' at the 1st European Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, Leuven (Belgium), 7-9 February 2017.
  • TIEBERGHIEN, J. (2016). Challenges and opportunities of 'good governance' for drug policy: the case of the development of Belgian drug policy between 1996 and 2003. Drugs: Education, Prevention, Policy. (in press)
  • TIEBERGHIEN, J. (2016). Politieke elite aan het woord: diepte-interviews met parlementsleden en ministers. In Decorte & Zaitch (eds.) (2016). Kwaliatieve methoden en technieken in de criminologie. Leuven: Acco.
  • TIEBERGHIEN, J. (2015). Public Criminology? Identifying the Roles of ‘Evidence’ in Belgian Drug Policy Development (1996-2003). Paper presented at the 71st Annual Conference of the American Society for Criminology (18-21 november, Washington DC), Proceedings.
  • TIEBERGHIEN, J. (2015). The intersection between science and policy: the case of the development of Belgian drug policy between 1996 and 2003, Diss. Doct. Criminologie, Ghent University.
  • TIEBERGHIEN, J. & MONAGHAN, M. (2015). ‘Public scholarship and the evidence movement’. Paper presented at the Workshop ‘Public Scholarship? Key Issues and Challenges of Research Use in Drugs Policy Making’ at the 9th Annual Conference of the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy, Proceedings.
  • TIEBERGHIEN, J. (2015). 'Evidence-based' drugsbeleid en het belang van de media. Verslaving, 11 (1), 30-40.
  • TIEBERGHIEN, J. (2014). Interviewing 'elites' in examining the science-policy nexus: some methodological reflections. In POTTER, G., WOUTERS, M., FOUNTAIN, J. (eds.), Change and Continuity: researching evolving drug landscapes in Europe (pp.123-138). Lengreich: Pasbst Science Publishers.
  • TIEBERGHIEN, J. (2014). Research utilization in the development of the Belgian drug policy (1996-2003): some lessons learned from interviews with 'elites'. Paper presented at the 8th Annual conference of the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy (ISSDP), Rome (Italy), 21-23 May 2014.
  • TIEBERGHIEN, J. (2014). 'Publieke criminologie' onder de loep: de rol van wetenschappelijk onderzoek in de ontwikkeling van het Belgische drugsbeleid (1996-2003). In L. PAUWELS & G. VERMEULEN. Update in de Criminologie VII: Actuele ontwikkelingen inzake EU-justitiebeleid, cannabisbeleid, misdaad en straf, jongeren en jeugdzorg, internationale vrede , veiligheid en gerechtigheid, gewelddadige extremisme & private veiligheid en zelfregulering (pp. 90-107). Antwerpen: Maklu.
  • TIEBERGHIEN, J. (2014). The role of the media in the science-policy nexus. Some critical reflections based on an analysis of the Belgian drug policy debate (1996-2003). International Journal of Drug Policy, 25(2), 276-281.
  • TIEBERGHIEN, J. (2014). The triangle of science, policy and media in the Belgian drug policy debate. In J. FOUNTAIN, M. WOUTERS & D.J. KORF. Snapshots of social drug research in Europe (pp. 42-44). Lengerich: Pabst Science Publishers.
  • TIEBERGHIEN, J. (2013). Interviewing 'elites'. Methodological reflections on 'studying up' in examining the science-policy nexus. Paper presented at the 24th European Society for Social Drug Research (ESSD), Stockholm (Sweden), 19-21 September 2013.
  • TIEBERGHIEN, J. (2013). What about 'public criminology'? How a better understanding of the science-policy nexus within the development of the Belgian drug policy (1996-2003) may feed the debate. Paper presented at the 13th European Society of Criminology Conference, Budapest (Hungary), 4-7 September 2013.
  • TIEBERGHIEN, J. (2013). Interactie media, wetenschap en beleid? De ontwikkelingen van het Belgische drugsbeleid (1996-2003) als case-study. Paper presented at the 4e Criminologisch Forum Vlaamse Vereniging voor Criminologie, Gent, 8 februari 2013.
  • TIEBERGHIEN, J. & DECORTE, T. (2013). Understanding the science-policy nexus in Belgium: an analysis of the drug policy debate (1996 – 2003). Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, 20(3), 241-248.
  • TIEBERGHIEN, J. (2012). De driehoek 'beleid - wetenschappelijk onderzoek - beleid' onder de loep. Enkele reflecties over de complexe wisselwerking binnen het domein drugs. Paper presented at the 22nd FADO Conference, Utrecht (The Netherlands), 15 november 2012.
  • TIEBERGHIEN, J. (2012). The triangle of science, policy and media. Some preliminary results of the analysis of the Belgian cannabis policy debate (1996-2003). Paper presented at the 23rd ESSD Conference, Athens (Greece), 4-6 October 2012.
  • TIEBERGHIEN, J. (2012). Understanding the science-policy nexus: an analysis of the Belgian federal debate on cannabis policy between 1996-2003. Paper presented at the 6th ISSDP Conference, Canterbury (UK), 30-31 may 2012.
  • TIEBERGHIEN, J. (2012). Beleidsmakers komen van Venus, wetenschappers van Mars? Een kritische blik op een complexe relatie tussen drugsbeleid en wetenschappelijk onderzoek. Paper presented at the Update in de Criminologie 6: Actualia in het strafrecht en de criminologie, Gent, 10 mei 2012.
  • TIEBERGHIEN, J. (2012), Beleidsmakers komen van Venus, wetenschappers van Mars? Een kritische blik op een complexe relatie tussen drugsbeleid en wetenschappelijk onderzoek. In PAUWELS, L. e.a. (Eds.), Update in de criminologie. Actualia Strafrecht en Criminologie 2012 (Reeks Gandaius, VI). Antwerpen: Maklu.
  • TIEBERGHIEN, J. (2011). Methods matter. Reflections on the study of the research-policy nexus in the Belgian cannabis law reform. Paper presented at the 22ndESSD Conference, Aarhus (Denmark), 22-24 september 2011.
  • TIEBERGHIEN, J. (2011). The intersection between science and policy: theoretical and methodological considerations. Paper presented at the Doctoral Schools seminar 'Making strategical choices in criminological issues', Gent, 7-9 september 2011.
  • TIEBERGHIEN, J. (2011). De intersectie tussen onderzoek en drugbeleid op nationaal niveau in België. Poster presentation at the 3e Criminologisch Forum ‘Criminologisch onderzoek in Vlaanderen’, Brussel, 11 februari 2011.