|Science and policy making in an age of uncertainty
The emergence and current relevance of Post Normal Science
Centre for the Study of the Sciences & the Humanities (SVT)
Universitetet i Bergen (UiB)
Paris, 24 April 2019
Université Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée, bâtiment Camus au 2 allée Jean Renoir – 93160 Noisy-le-Grand
It has been a rapid transformation since the mainstream narrative about the science-technology-governance nexus started to be questioned during the early 1960s. In the pre-WWII period, philosophers of different persuasions invoked Science as the symbol of their vision, whether of communism (J.D. Bernal), conservatism (M. Polanyi), criticism (K. Popper), or American democracy (R.K. Merton).
But then, as Big Science was established (V. Bush), the image of Science as the universal beneficial truth-machine was coming under challenge. First through nuclear weapons then the military-industrial complex, and the emergence of a technoscientific elite (D. Eisenhower). Finally, the critique of science progress (T. Kuhn), and the pathologies of technological progress, with its environmental ‘unintended consequences’ (R. Carson), reinforced by disasters in complex systems (Ch. Perrow), no longer obviously ‘clean, safe and cheap’.
Post Normal Science (PNS) arose out of the collaboration with Jerry Ravetz on the management of uncertainty in technological risks, extending the analysis on science and trans-science (A. Weinberg) to the quantification of risks in complex technoscientific systems were uncertainty is irreducible, and then to the growing conflicts in the legitimation system of the Modern state.
For resolving such issues there needs to be an extension of the peer community who are responsible for quality control and governance in science and technology. It can no longer be restricted to scientific experts or even accredited professionals, but must include a multiplicity of actors, including what are now called grassroots ‘citizen scientists’. These ‘extended peers’ may use as evidence ‘extended-facts’, obtained through sources and methods other than the traditional peer-reviewed literature authored by credentialed experts. PNS has legitimised the use of facts that are, in many occasions, based on experiential, practical or ancestral knowledge.
In this talk, after presenting the roots, the emergence and the main features of PNS, I will reflect on its journey and its influence on regulatory science and the production of knowledge for policy-making.