Silent agents affected by legislation: from an insufficient knowledge base to inclusive solutions
SILE strives to promote socially and ethically sustainable legislation that takes into account the positions, rights, and well-being of silent agents (SILE stands for “silent agents affected by legislation”). In this context, the term silent refers to groups who are excluded from the preparation of laws that affect them.
Most of us can be regarded as silent agents: very few people attend hearings or write statements on draft laws. However, SILE is focused on the groups in society whose lives are heavily influenced by law and whose positions are sensitive to conflicting tensions: children and young people in child protection, prisoners and precarious residents, and individuals struggling with debt, substance abuse, or mental health issues. In general, others speak about these groups or speak for them, or not about them at all. Animals are also included in SILE as they represent a particularly silent group. A concern for animal welfare and the question of animal rights have gained a lot of attention in recent years. We ask:
1. HOW ARE THE POSITIONS, RIGHTS, AND WELL-BEING OF SILENT AGENTS
taken into account when drafting laws: what kind of information is valued; who represents the silent agents and what kind of information is used; how do the tensions between the different interest groups manifest, and how are they resolved?
2. HOW DO THE FORMS OF SUPPORT AND CONTROL
produced by laws affect silent agents, and through what processes do the effects take shape: do the laws have unintended adverse consequences and, if so, why?
3. HOW IS ALGORITHMIC KNOWLEDGE PRODUCTION
regulated and utilised in the implementation of laws that relate to silent agents?
4. WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
in relation to the preparation of emergency legislation and its effects on silent agents?
The research material we utilise includes guidelines and documents that relate to the preparation of legislation, interviews and discussions that are sourced from workshops. We listen to silent agents, the ministries and authorities drafting and implementing laws, and other experts and stakeholders. We also engage in dialogue with all interested parties. We study the statistical information relevant to our areas of research, and we will soon start collecting additional material via a form on our website. We combine scientific knowledge with tacit information on the implementation and impacts of laws and legal knowledge. In addition, we create new knowledge and practices for consultation and impact assessments with our partners.
An additional goal is the development of LAWRADAR (Lakitutka): an open web application that aggregates public law drafting material in an open access repository. We use LAWRADAR as a tool to help implement the research project, and further to assist those interested in law-making.
SILE is a joint project between the University of Helsinki, the University of Turku, the University of Lapland, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, and Frisky Anjoy Oy. SILE includes social scientists (sociology, social policy, political research), legal scientists (sociology of law, public law), and animal welfare researchers. The research is funded by the Strategic Research Council, which operates in connection with the Academy of Finland. See Research Group for more details.
Our partners include silent agents and their representative organisations, various public authorities, the ministries responsible for drafting laws, and academic scholars. We also welcome anyone with an interest in participating in the project. The aim is to cooperatively develop methods for improving the realisation of rights, the positions, and well-being of silent agents in the drafting of legislation. We organise workshops, Breaking the Silence events, and other joint activities. We rely on the help of all our partners to carry out effective research and make an impact.