Poiesis & Praxis

, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 199–215

Rethinking the science-policy nexus: from knowledge utilization and science technology studies to types of boundary arrangements

Original Paper

Abstract

The relationship between political judgment and science-based expertise is a troubled one. In the media three cliché images compete. The business-as-usual political story is that, in spite of appearances to the contrary, politics is safely ‘on top’ and experts are still ‘on tap’. The story told by scientists is that power-less but inventive scholars only ‘speak truth to power’. But there is plenty of room for a more cynical interpretation. It sees scientific advisers as following their own interests, unless better paid by other interests, and politicians as asking for advice only to support and legitimize their pre-formed political decisions. To the extent this cynical perspective gains ascendancy, politics and science lose credibility. If we think the three clichés cloak a more complex reality, we should embark upon a quest for other, possibly better models of the science/politics nexus. That is exactly the purpose of this article. Its claim is that a mutual transgression of the knowledge utilization strand of research in policy studies and the study of science, technology and society will provide us with more sophisticated images of science/politics boundary arrangements. Building upon Habermas’ well-known distinctions and Wittrock’s historical-institutional approach in the construction of a property space, eight models are presented. We should try to discover the conditions under which some of these models may claim greater verisimilitude. This may allow us to rethink the role of scientific expertise in policymaking and generate a model that guides experts and policymakers (and perhaps other stakeholders as well) in their day-to-day boundary work.

Zusammenfassung

Die Beziehung zwischen politischem Urteil und wissenschaftlicher Expertise ist problematisch. In den Medien wetteifern heute drei Klischees dazu. Allem gegenteiligen Anschein zum Trotz ist die Sichtweise der Politik gewöhnlich, dass sie sicher alle Fäden in der Hand hält und die Experten auf Abruf bereitstehen. Wissenschaftler vertreten dagegen die Auffassung, sie seien machtlose, wenngleich erfindungsreiche Gelehrte, die lediglich „den Mächtigen die Wahrheit sagen“. Daneben ist jedoch reichlich Raum für eine zynischere Betrachtungsweise, nach der wissenschaftliche Berater ihre eigenen Interessen verfolgen, sofern andere Interessen sie nicht besser bezahlen, und Politiker nur solchen Rat suchen, der ihre vorgefassten politischen Entscheidungen stützt und legitimiert. In dem Maße, wie diese zynische Sicht die Oberhand gewinnt, verlieren Politik und Wissenschaft an Glaubwürdigkeit. Wenn wir jedoch meinen, dass diese drei Klischees eine komplexere Realität verhüllen, dann sollten wir nach anderen, möglicherweise besseren Modellen für den Nexus zwischen Wissenschaft und Politik suchen. Genau darauf zielt dieser Artikel ab. Wir behaupten, dass ein beidseitiges Überschreiten des Forschungsansatzes zur Wissensanwendung in den Politikwissenschaften und in der wissenschaftlichen Betrachtung von Naturwissenschaft, Technologie und Gesellschaft hochauflösendere Bilder von den Verhältnissen an der Grenze zwischen Wissenschaft und Politik liefert. Wir präsentieren acht Modelle, aufbauend auf Habermas’ bekannten Unterscheidungen und Wittrocks historisch-instutionellem Ansatz zur Konstruktion eines Eigenschaftsraums. Wir sollten nach den Bedingungen suchen, unter denen manche dieser Modelle eine größere Wahrheitsnähe für sich beanspruchen können. Dies könnte uns ermöglichen, die Rolle wissenschaftlicher Expertise bei politischen Entscheidungsprozessen neu zu überdenken und ein Modell zu schaffen, an dem sich Experten und politische Entscheidungsträger (und vielleicht auch andere Beteiligte) in ihrer täglichen Arbeit im fraglichen Grenzbereich orientieren können.

Résumé

La relation entre le jugement politique et l’expertise à fondement scientifique est problématique. Dans les médias, trois clichés se disputent la première place. Même si les apparences indiquent le contraire, le langage du monde politique montre que ce dernier tient les rênes et que les experts doivent répondre à l’appel. Le message diffusé par les scientifiques consiste à dire qu’ils sont des érudits certes sans pouvoir mais ingénieux, qui se contentent de «dire la vérité aux puissants». Mais ceci laisse assez de place à une interprétation plus cynique, suivant laquelle les conseillers scientifiques poursuivent leurs propres intérêts, à moins que d’autres intérêts ne les rémunèrent mieux; et les hommes politiques ne leur demandent leur avis que pour étayer et légitimer les décisions politiques qu’ils ont déjà prises. La politique et la science perdent de leur crédibilité à mesure que cette vision cynique gagne du terrain. Si nous pensons que ces trois clichés cachent une réalité plus complexe, il nous faudra chercher d’autres modèles, meilleurs si possible, pour la connexion entre science et politique. Tel est exactement l’objectif de cet article. Il affirme qu’une transgression mutuelle des filières d’utilisation du savoir dans la recherche en sciences politiques et l’étude de la science, de la technologie et de la socièté nous fournira un tableau plus complexe des rapports en présence sur les lignes de démarcation entre science et politique. Il présente huit modèles sur la base des distinctions bien connues d’Habermas et de l’approche historico-institutionnelle de Wittrock sur la construction d’un espace de propriété. Nous devrions rechercher les conditions dans lesquelles certains de ces modèles peuvent se targuer d’être très vraisemblables. Ceci nous permettrait de repenser le rôle de l’expertise scientifique dans la production politique et de créer un modèle capable de guider les experts et les politiques (et peut-être aussi d’autres intéressés) dans leur travail quotidien aux frontières de ces deux domaines.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Business, Public Administration and TechnologyUniversity of TwenteAE EnschedeThe Netherlands

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