Monday, October 01, 2007

Perceptions of science

"This failure [of climate change science in anticipating social impacts of climate change] strongly reflects the power, and danger, of a science policy dogma that asserts that more scientific understanding must lead to more societal benefit, and thus allows problems rooted in socioeconomics and politics to be redefined as agendas for scientific research."
(Sarewitz, et al. 2004)

Sarawitz et al were writing in 2004 - when the shift in climate policy was happening; a shift from mitigation to adaptation. Now, climate models predict a period of hundreds of years of warming under the most optimistic cases of global climate change. In the summer of 2007, SNRE led a conference called "Confronting Climate Change" where the expected impacts from climate change in various aspects of existence were assessed with behavior change adaptation in mind. There continues to be a sense that mitigation is important, but greater societal good will come out of an intelligent anticipation of climate change. Perhaps in this way science is starting to move in the direction of iterations between social needs and science research.

Sarewitz et al discussed this as "A third possibility [of science policy] would be to extend the notion of science policy itself to give equal weight to the processes of knowledge creation and use."

When I read this part - and the rest of the article, I was like, "OMG! A breath of fresh air." This line of reasoning seems to follow on what Gibbons et al discuss as "Type 2" science, and is a method by which recent groundwater policy was decided in Michigan.

Sidenote: Does this "third possibility" herald a paradigm shift in science practice, science policy, or public perceptions of science?

Sarewitz, D., G Foladori, N. Invernizzi, M.S. Garfinkel (2004) "Science Policy in its Social Context" Philosophy Today (Supplement 2004)

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