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Discerning ExpertsThe Practices of Scientific Assessment for Environmental Policy$
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Michael Oppenheimer, Naomi Oreskes, Dale Jamieson, Keynyn Brysse, Jessica O'Reilly, Matthew Shindell, and Milena Wazeck

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226601960

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226602158.001.0001

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Patrolling the Science/Policy Border

Patrolling the Science/Policy Border

(p.171) Chapter Five Patrolling the Science/Policy Border
Discerning Experts

Michael Oppenheimer

Naomi Oreskes

Dale Jamieson

Keynyn Brysse

Jessica O’Reilly

Matthew Shindell

Milena Wazeck

University of Chicago Press

A twentieth-century tradition of distinguished scientists offering policy advice has in the twenty-first century mostly given way to large, international, and highly bureaucratic assessments by hundreds or thousands of “rank-and-file” scientists, whose charge is to inform but not recommend policy. Epistemic authority has apparently shifted from the stature and reliability of individual scientists having generalized competence to the institutional process of bringing together many experts with a range of domain-specific knowledge. Large assessments often seek to establish their objectivity by pursuing a strategy of “balance of bias.” They include assessors from a range of genders, countries, disciplines, and perspectives. They often attempt to demonstrate credibility by being “policy relevant but not policy prescriptive.” Instead of recommending a policy, they present a range of scenario options for policymakers to choose from. However, the very existence of an assessment suggests that there is a problem about which something should be done, and the choice of which options to present is already politically infused. Moreover, even in the twenty-first century there remains a need for individual scientists to act as sentinels where their expertise is proximate. However, scientists should be reticent regarding interventions in which their expertise is not central to the issue.

Keywords:   fact–value distinction, science–policy boundary, neutrality, objectivity, scientist as sentinel

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