Prevision-making at the Local level: Anticipating what’s Next (PLAN). Political decision-making in uncertain times: A socio-cognitive approach to the reopening of EU borders after the Covid-19 crisis

Anticipation is key to policy making (Tetlock et al. 2016). Yet, in uncertain times, the accumulated knowledge on prevision-making and political forecasting, largely built on historical data, becomes obsolete – creating additional challenges for the design and implementation of public policies.

The Coronavirus outbreak was neither anticipated by stakeholders nor predicted by professional forecasters. Geopolitical uncertainty at the supranational and national levels currently places subnational stakeholders in an unseen situation. Despite their limited visibility on the short- and long-run dynamics of international mobility, and their lack of prerogatives with respect to the regulation of migration, they bear responsibility for managing their consequences, and ensure the local provision of public services, as well as the well-being of their populations.

EU’s multi-level governance is tested to its limits[i] as the Union progressively lift travel restrictions.[ii] How will policy makers anticipate and manage the (un)intended consequences of the reopening of EU’s external borders? At the frontline of the unlockdown process[iii], how will French and British local stakeholders cooperate with supranational, national, and other local authorities? Will British and French authorities act in concert[iv], or independently[v]?

After weeks of travel bans, the reopening of international borders will be decisive. The PLAN project seizes this historical moment to shed new light on political decision-making. It offers a new perspective on future-oriented cognition through a longitudinal comparison of the social, economic, and cognitive resources used by policy makers to anticipate the (un)intended consequences of their decisions in times of uncertainty. By doing so, this project extends the literature on political forecasting and decision making in several fields, ranging from cognitive anthropology to neurosciences.

An interdisciplinary and cost-effective empirical design will bring objective evidence to the study of future-oriented cognition. To this end, the project relies on three sources of data. The online survey will record stakeholders’ previsions regarding: (1) political evolutions (predictions of the next European, national, and local election results – as baseline); (2) mobility (evolution of mobility and attitudes towards immigration and redistribution 12 and 24 months after the initial survey); (3) the (long-term) implications of the Covid-19 crisis for vulnerable populations, including migrants (cf. infra). Our ex post comparisons of stakeholders’ forecasts (at T0 and T+1) with objective administrative data (at T+1 and T+2) will generate a novel diagnosis regarding decision-making. These findings will be used to develop three resources, strategic to policy-making in uncertain times: (1) a virtual symposium enabling French and UK participants to learn from efficient oversees’ responses; (2) an online course on cognitive flexibility, tailored to the needs of local stakeholders; (3) an online forum favouring knowledge exchanges between policy makers and academics specialising in decision making, worldwide (cf. infra).

Fitting within the scope of the RA-COVID-19 call issued by the Agence Nationale pour la Recherche (ANR), the PLAN project would make a key contribution to the research theme « Socio-economic dynamics and ethics ». Further, through its support, the ANR will propel the nascent collaboration between the University of Oxford in the UK and Sciences Po and the IC Migrations in France – a consortium uniquely positioned to further demonstrate how advances in contemporary sciences can contribute to better understand and support innovative policymaking.

[i] Cf. Virginie Guiraudon’s interview by U. Bellier, “Frontières ouvertes ou fermées ? Le point sur la situation dans les pays de l’UE”, Le Monde,20 May 2020.

[ii] Cf. “Communication from the Commission to the European parliament, the European Council and the Council on the second assessment of the application of the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU”, European Commission, 8 May 2020.

[iii] Cf. “Le Sénat vote une protection juridique des décideurs locaux durant l’état d’urgence”, Mediapart, 5 May 2020.

[iv] Cf. the joint statement between France and the UK, available at:, 10 May 2020.

[v] Cf. “UK quarantine for travellers to now include French arrivals”, The Guardian, 15 May 2020.


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