chapter  1
16 Pages

Science, uncertainty and the normative question of epistemic governance in policymaking


What role should science play in the making of law and public policy? The question is relevant for at least three reasons. First, science both identifies (e.g., potential hazards to health and the environment) and generates problems (e.g., potential hazards posed by research and associated technologies), and policymakers are increasingly required to acknowledge and enable their governance. Second, science offers more detailed knowledge on the specific nature of problems (e.g., at what level do some potential hazards become significant?), ways of addressing them, and their impacts (e.g., might we be able to clean up pollution with microbial forms?). Nor is this restricted to hazards alone or to the natural sciences, as the social/economic/policy sciences also identify, generate, specify and offer solutions to aspirations around finance, social security, education, health and so on. Third, the question has become resonant in wider public discourse especially in the UK, with government science advisors, scientists and science popularizers, politicians, journalists and academics debating the subject.1 In this context, I will explore how we might think about the role that science should play in the policy context from an STS and socio-legal studies standpoint.