Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bringing values and deliberation to science communication

A PNAS paper by UVM/GIEE colleague Thomas Dietz, where he proposed to use public participation as a mode of science communication. 

Some excerpts from the great paper:

1. Good decision-making should be factually competent, value-competent and adaptive.
2. Adaptive risk management, sometimes called adaptive risk governance, is a response to the challenges of uncertainty we face.  The core idea is that decision should take explicit account of uncertainty, facilitate social learning, maintain some flexibility, and revisit the decision periodically.  The idea is appealing, but implementing it will require careful thought about  how to engage both uncertain facts and uncertain values, and how to learn as we move forward.
3.  It is useful to distinguished three types of expertise we need or making decisions under uncertainty:  scientific, community and political.  Community expertise is what most members of he public develop in their day-to-day lives.  It is also the expertise on what the public cares about: expertise about values.  Political expertise is not only in values, but in what might work and what might not, given the stance of other political actors and the capacities of local organizations and institutions.  We have to meld these forms of expertise into an alloy that is better at informing decisions than any one form of expertise would be acting alone. 
4. "Policy analysis tools, such as benefit–cost analysis, assume agreement both on the values we assign to decision outcomes and on the appropriate process for reconciling value differences to reach a decision. However, people may differ not only in what they value but in how they believe value differences should be resolved."
5. When we acknowledge value differences, we are also accepting that our differences are going to be more difficult to reconcile than if they were based solely on different beliefs about the facts.
6.  Policy relevant but not policy prescriptive!  science cannot tell us what we should care about: Science has no privilege with regard to values.
7.  Get the science right + Get the right science.  Dialogue with those who carry political and community expertise can help scientists understand the constraints on decision making, the local context to which scientific analysis must be applied, and the issues of concern to those who will influence a decision and those who will be affected by it.