Consensus-Based Approaches to Handling Science
Conventional methods for soliciting scientific information and resolving disputed points in public decision making often leave those who choose to become involved frustrated and confused. Thomas Kuhn's seminal work coincided with a shift within the social studies of science. Other examinations of the activities of contemporary scientists suggest the influence of factors external to the laboratory on methodological choices made in the course of laboratory work. Many writers have speculated on the theoretical compatibility of consensus-based procedures, such as negotiation and mediation, with science-intensive public disputes. Theories of dioxin formation have implications for evaluating the effectiveness of pollution control technologies. Disengaging decision alternatives from disputes over scientific or technical issues is only the first step in developing a politically acceptable decision. The level of technical ambiguity surrounding wood stove emissions opened the door for analytical acrobatics and political posturing. Parties entered the negotiations with a fairly strong sense of the relative scarcity of pertinent scientific data and information.