Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Sciences


Henry Lambright


Agenda setting;Experts involvement;Groups dynamics;Policymaking;Science policy

Subject Categories

Public Administration | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Social and Behavioral Sciences


While extensive work has been conducted on empirically analyzing interest group activities in the Western context, there is less work being done on distinguishing the policy engagement of groups in the post-Soviet context, especially in Kazakhstan. Scholars emphasize diverse interest groups operating within the Kazakh political landscape (Isaacs, 2013; Mesquita, 2016). The polarization of interests has been proved among groups with similar political concerns, while the struggle between them is determined by their attitude toward ongoing policy reforms (Satpaev, 2018). This work aims to examine whether the interest groups and agenda setting models are helpful to understand and explain the dynamics of science agenda setting in Kazakhstan. It essentially seeks to analyze the level to which Kazakh scientists participate in the agenda setting process and explore their impact on science policy prioritization. The ultimate goal is to investigate the construction of the science-policy agenda, how this agenda relates to the needs of scientists, and how interest groups influence policy changes in science. In this perspective, the internal agenda-setting means of the authorized governmental body in science, the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of Kazakhstan, will be analyzed from the inside and outside actors’ involvement. The general assumption is that policy-making benefits from the engagement of multiple actors as it provides relevant policy expertise and legitimacy. Because science and technology are becoming increasingly critical policy issues, it is necessary to strengthen the partnership with policy actors (Lambright, 2008). Analysis of the policy influence of interest groups over the policy agenda requires a deep understanding of the context, as well as the review of multiple factors, such as the nature of groups, their policy stance, mobilization techniques, lobbying strategies, etc. (Pralle, 2003; Baumgartner et al. 2009; Lambright, 2014; Halpin & Fraussen, 2017). Public attitude and political culture, state fiscal, and human capacity represent additional aspects of consideration (Verhulst et al. 2012; Schewe et al. 2020). The current project attempts to contribute to this endeavor by examining the scientists' involvement in science policymaking and guiding the understanding of the policy dynamics in modern Kazakhstan. Сonsidering the prevalence of centralized decision-making in Kazakhstan, the study will also integrate some discussions on bureaucratic politics and processes. It is assumed that the bureaucratic approach could help explain some features of Kazakh science policymaking. According to the results of this study, two conflicting interest groups composed of old and young scientists exist in the Kazakh science policy landscape. The group of old scientists consists of academicians with Soviet scientific backgrounds; the young scientists’ group comprises those with contemporary Ph.D. degrees, predominantly from foreign universities. Controversies between them arise due to modern policy changes and scientific approach. While young scientists call for policies in response to emerging scientific problems and favor international standards, old scientists keep pursuing outdated Soviet approaches. National Research Councils and other entities lobby for the interests of old scientists and the national government. Although government officials promoting bureaucratic interests recognize the importance of new-generation scientists, the administrative structure is subject to entrenched interests from the highly centralized governance system. Yet, the gradual development of a new generation of scientists with modern knowledge and expertise could build a critical mass among scientists that would expand expert participation in policymaking. Current power dynamics among interest groups may also bring essential changes in Kazakh science policy. Thus, there is a potential that the country may progress toward a more pluralistic decision-making system in the nearest future.


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