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Scientific information and uncertainty: Challenges for the use of science in policymaking

Abstract

Science can reinforce the healthy aspects of the politics of the policy process, to identify and further the public interest by discrediting policy options serving only special interests and helping to select among “science-confident” and “hedging” options. To do so, scientists must learn how to manage and communicate the degree of uncertainty in scientific understanding and prediction, lest uncertainty be manipulated to discredit science or to justify inaction. For natural resource and environmental policy, the institutional interests of government agencies, as well as private interests, pose challenges of suppression, over-simplification, or distortion of scientific information. Scientists can combat these maneuvers, but must also look inward to ensure that their own special interests do not undermine the usefulness of science.

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Correspondence to William L. Ascher.

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Ascher, W.L. Scientific information and uncertainty: Challenges for the use of science in policymaking. SCI ENG ETHICS 10, 437–455 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-004-0002-z

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-004-0002-z

Keywords

  • Adaptive management
  • environmental policy
  • natural-resource policy
  • policy process
  • role of science
  • scientific uncertainty