Scientific Rationality and Policy-Making: Making Their Marriage Work

Friday, February 19, 2010: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Room 7B (San Diego Convention Center)
Scientific rationality and policy-making may be wedded, but are they happily married? In a climate of deep recession and profound revisiting of principles and worldviews, the relationship between the two assumes even greater importance. The way scientific analytical approaches inform policy-making may affect the depth and scope of policies, their design, and implications. A clearer understanding of this relationship can help explain what science can and what it cannot be expected to do. Overall, a closer, more mature rapport between scientific rationality and policy-making, though desirable, is not automatically obtainable, and like any relationship, it takes a lot of work. Since socioeconomic issues occupy most of the policy agenda, much of policy analysis and policy-making is necessarily underpinned by analysis informed by social science and inspired by preferences and values for which understanding is further removed from natural science. Here are important phenomena running in parallel: first, the relationship between natural sciences and social sciences, the latter being closer to the policy-maker's concerns, while trying to emulate the authoritativeness of the former, most evidently in economics; second, the key role of preferences/values for which study is usually beyond the remit of science; and third, views of science and technology as a god from a machine (deus-ex-machina), which can cure all ills and be the driver of economic growth.
Aidan Gilligan, European Commission, Joint Research Center (JRC)
Dimitrios Kyriakou, JRC Institute for Prospective Technological Studies
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