The Homest Broker

The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics

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New Bridges Column


Roger Pielke's latest column for Bridges is now available and in it he provides an overview of his new book:

When former US Vice President Al Gore testified before Congress last month he used an analogy to describe the challenge of climate change:

If your baby has a fever, you go to the doctor. If the doctor says you need to intervene here, you don't say, "Well, I read a science fiction novel that told me it's not a problem." If the crib's on fire, you don't speculate that the baby is flame retardant. You take action.

With this example Al Gore was not only advocating a particular course of action on climate change, he was also describing the relationship between science (and expertise more generally) and decision making. In Mr. Gore's analogy, the baby's parents (i.e. "you") are largely irrelevant to the process of decision making, as the doctor's recommendation is accepted without question.

But anyone who has had to take their child to a doctor for a serious health problem or an injury knows that the interaction between patient, parent, and doctor can take a number of different forms. In my new book The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics (Cambridge University Press), I seek to describe various ways that an expert (e.g., a doctor) can interact with a decision maker (e.g., a parent) in ways that lead to desirable outcomes (e.g., a healthy child). Experts have choices in how they relate to decision makers, and these choices have important effects on decisions but also the role of experts in society. Mr. Gore's metaphor provides a useful way to illustrate the four different roles for experts in decision making that are discussed in The Honest Broker. Read More...

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