ERC Advanced Grant for political scientist Christoph Knill

11 Apr 2024

How does a permanent state of crisis affect policymaking? The European Research Council is funding an LMU project on this topic.

Professor Christoph Knill

Christoph Knill receives research funding from the ERC for his project CRISPOL | © Christoph Knill

Professor Christoph Knill has been awarded an Advanced Grant by the European Research Council (ERC) for his project CRISPOL (Systemic Effects of Crises on Policy-Making in Modern Democracies). Knill holds the Chair of Empirical Theories of Politics at LMU’s Geschwister Scholl Institute of Political Science. In his research, he studies shifts of policy, changes in government activity, changes in national administrative systems, and the relationship between administration and policymaking. CRISPOL investigates the systemic effects of crises on democratic policymaking.

With Advanced Grants, the ERC supports established scientists from all disciplines whose highly innovative research goes well beyond the current state of research and forges ahead into new research territories. The award comes with maximum funding of 2.5 million euros over a period of five years. For Knill, this is the third Advanced Grant in his career.

In a vicious cycle of crises

War, coronavirus, climate catastrophe – crises are no longer an exception in modern democracies, but have become the rule. Because these constant emergencies garner such political attention, areas that are not acutely affected can be overlooked. This in turn can lead to neglected problems flaring up, with the result that governments are confronted with a growing number of crises. In other words, crises engender more crises. This vicious cycle can undermine democratic legitimacy and erode the trust of the public.

In his ERC-funded project CRISPOL, Christoph Knill is investigating exactly how this worst-case scenario can transpire. “I want to understand what systemic interactions arise out of political decisions responding to crisis events and how crises affect the problem-solving capabilities of governments in sectors close to and distant from the crisis in question,” explains the political scientist. He plans to study these questions theoretically and empirically while analyzing various political sectors in 23 OECD countries over a period of 50 years.

Recovery or escalation?

On the one hand, CRISPOL investigates whether displacement effects can actually be observed in certain areas when another area is caught up in a crisis. That is to say, do radical departures from the status quo in “crisis-adjacent” sectors come at the expense of sectors further away from the crisis? And if so: Is this neglect prolonged? “It’s important to observe these dynamics over longer timeframes,” says Knill. The question is whether neglected policy areas could recover after the crisis has passed. “Is the crisis-induced torpor balanced out by a more dynamic change in the post-crisis period? Or do crises have lasting effects on dynamics in remote sectors?”

In addition, Knill is interested in the extent to which various countries differ from each other in this regard. This could furnish valuable lessons for the future: “Certain countries are perhaps better at managing crises while at the same time addressing other policy areas. In CRISPOL, we want to find out which factors contribute to this capability.”

Christoph Knill obtained his doctorate at Bielefeld University and completed his habilitation degree in political science at the FernUniversität in Hagen. Prior to being appointed professor at LMU in 2014, he was Professor for European Studies at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena and Professor Ordinarius for Political and Administrative Science at the University of Konstanz.

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