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Investigating policy learning in times of uncertainty

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About The Project

The government response to COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of policy learning in the face of uncertainty; meanwhile, varying provincial government responses throughout Canada suggest that officials are responding differently to the same uncertainty frameworks.


Academics, policymakers, and the public alike need to better understand how governments understand risk, make decisions, and learn in the face of uncertainty. We do not assume that learning takes place in a broadly rational fashion. Instead, we consider the role of public and elite understandings of risk (including how risk is communicated through various media), different structures of government (especially regarding governance of public health), and trust in/reliance on science.


Lessons from Crisis will contribute to theories of policy learning and participatory democracy, analyze the ways learning does and does not occur in crisis situations, and gain a better understanding of variation in Canadian pandemic responses, both among provinces and over time.

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Guiding Questions:
Why do governments respond differently to global crises, like the COVID-19 pandemic?
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