, Volume 17, Issue 5, pp 563-574

The role of analytical science in natural resource decision making

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There is a continuing debate about the proper role of analytical (positivist) science in natural resource decision making. Two diametrically opposed views are evident, arguing for and against a more extended role for scientific information. The debate takes on a different complexion if one recognizes that certain kinds of problem, referred to here as “wicked” or “trans-science” problems, may not be amenable to the analytical process. Indeed, the mistaken application of analytical methods to trans-science problems may not only be a waste of time and money but also serve to hinder policy development. Since many environmental issues are trans-science in nature, then it follows that alternatives to analytical science need to be developed. In this article, the issues involved in the debate are clarified by examining the impact of the use of analytical methods in a particular case, the spruce budworm controversy in New Brunswick. The article ends with some suggestions about a “holistic” approach to the problem.