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Competing facts and contested values: navigating science and policy interactions


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By John Ward, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia

Presented at the Mekong Forum on Water, Food and Energy Phnom Penh, Cambodia December 7-9, 2011 Session 6a: The role of research: How does research influence the ways in which water, food and energy development decisions are made?

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Competing facts and contested values: navigating science and policy interactions

  1. 1. Competing facts and contested values:navigating science and policy interactionsDr John WardMekong Forum: water food and energyPhnom Penh December 2011
  2. 2. “Policy has to do with man’s problems with coping with his future…policy brings to statement what is judged to be possible, desirableand meaningful for the human enterprise. In this sense policy isthe nexus of fact, value and ultimate meaning in which scientific,ethical and theological-philosophical reflections meet.” (Winter1966)Hume asserts that under standard systems of logic, you cannotderive an “ought” statement (i.e. values or the answer to anormative question) from a series of “is” statements or facts“The word “value” occurs in economic writing with high frequency,the frequency of meanings being about as great as the frequencyof occurrence” (Boulding 1956)CSIRO.
  3. 3. Key points:1. Natural resource management (NRM) policy represents an amalgam of facts, values and norms that guide current actions into a future desired state2. The decision arena is characterised by social, political and factual uncertainty combined with contested values3. There is a lack of consensus about what constitutes “values”4. The linear model of science assumes that science advice (facts) precedes and compels political decisions.5. In the context of NRM, reducing factual uncertainty does not translate as reduced social or policy uncertainty6. Because contested values are central to the process of decision making, not contested facts7. Introduce a systematic framework to assist scientists and policy makers in their choice of engagementCSIRO.
  4. 4. Murray Darling Basin Plan 2010• Central and most controversial decision was to establish an agreed level of river system modification: how much water to leave for the environment and how much to extract for irrigation?• Competing interests argued that science is on “our” side and proposed arguments that undermined the science credibility of the opposing view. Businesses employing >1 Total population• Substantiated science and facts wereperson to be necessary and seen sufficient to the decision 2008 % process. 2008 % 2004 making 2004 change change• Policy decisions were more about value propositions of various Greater 58,687 61,014 +4% 2,298 2,766 +20% water interests: subject to debate, negotiation and argument. Shepparton Griffith 24,534 25,278 +3% 1,182 1,377 +16% Source ABS (2010) National Regional Profile, 28/04/10CSIRO.
  5. 5. Facts, preferences and opinions: a valuestypologyCSIRO.
  6. 6. Criteria for determining the role of science in policy and politics (Pielke 2007) Is the decision context characterised by both values consensus and low uncertainty? YES NO Reduce Connected the scope to policy? of choice?YES NO YES NOScience arbiter Pure scientist Issue Advocate Honest Broker By uncertainty we mean that in particular circumstances, more than one outcome is consistent with expectations. CSIRO.
  7. 7. Four roles of science in policy engagement• The Pure Scientist - seeks to focus only on facts and has no interaction with the decision maker.• The Science Arbiter - answers specific factual questions posed by the decision maker.• The Issue Advocate - seeks to reduce the scope of choice available to the decision maker.• The Honest Broker of Policy Options - seeks to expand, or at least clarify, the scope of choice available to the decision maker.CSIRO.
  8. 8. Which type of science policy engagement?Leader,CSIRO. Evidence Freedecision models IASC 2008 Follower of based Rider (December 2007)
  9. 9. State contingent policy analysis Biophysical system System stimulation: Policies and actions New system states: Undesirable, Behavioural system maladaptive orClimate, andconnected pathogenic withaquifers high social cost Governance system Exogenous cultural influence Set of System trajectories Economic Which one???Geo-politics, system Dynamic system New System states: New Policy Objectives characteristics: eg Desirable, high New science social benefit and Changing Infrastructure reflects policy Macro economics environmental attitudes Governance: objectives (carbon tax), New opportunities external technologies and values Livelihoods Changing attitudes to Land use change Exogenous and equity or development endogenous stimuli or stressors Diagnostics: Framing the problem: Prognostics: Pure scientist and science arbiter Issue Advocate Honest Broker CSIRO. Evidence based decision models IASC 2008
  10. 10. CSIRO Ecosystem Science Dr John Ward Web: Thank you! Contact Us Phone: 1300 363 400 or +61 3 9545 2176CSIRO. Exploring Mekong Region Futures Email: Web: Page 10
  11. 11. The policy science conundrum Politization of science Replaces legitimate political debate and negotiation Potential of policy paralysis (waiting for science) Politician Advocate ScientistCSIRO.