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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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(p.211) Conclusion
Discerning Experts

Michael Oppenheimer

Naomi Oreskes

Dale Jamieson

Keynyn Brysse

Jessica O’Reilly

Matthew Shindell

Milena Wazeck

University of Chicago Press

The practice of scientific assessment involves both expert review and expert judgment. Key goals of assessments include objectivity (individual and institutional), and, typically, inclusivity and consensus. Recent scientific assessments, such as those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, generally seek to demarcate science from policy—to be “policy-relevant” but not "policy-prescriptive.” While their explicit goal may be to summarize scientific knowledge and inform policy, assessments may also be used to delay policy action, as were some early national assessments of ozone depletion. Despite the "no research" mandate of some assessment bodies (e.g., the IPCC), assessments may produce new scientific knowledge. The inclusion (and exclusion) of individual assessors, and the organization of the assessment (both process and product), may affect epistemic outcomes. Finally, assessments may influence scientific research agendas, either explicitly, as in the case of the US National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program, or implicitly, sometimes leading to the production of knowledge but also to the production of ignorance regarding areas that are or are not considered important or sufficiently tractable in the terms of the assessment economy.

Keywords:   objectivity, balance of bias, consensus, research agenda, knowledge production

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