Home Text only view Print Search
2001 Controversy
Science Policy




Center for Science and Technology Policy Research


Allocation of water in the Klamath Basin is both politically and scientifically contentious. There is sufficient complexity to the science that facts can be marshaled to support a variety of social values and thus a variety of management actions. The problem is not one of “sound” science versus "junk" science but is rather that nature is complex and can be viewed through many analytical lenses.

Allocation and management of natural resources is an evolving blend of science, sociology, law, and politics and is dependent on the ability of decision-makers to obtain high-quality information and to integrate that information into the political and legal processes. When humans want something from the natural world decisions are:

  1. Not entirely scientific though they are informed by science. Scientific information provides the boundaries within which decisions are made. However, scientific information will seldom provide all of the information needed to make a decision because within the bounds established by science are any number of possible courses of action each with a probable set of outcomes;
  2. Not entirely legal though they exist within a legal framework;
  3. Not entirely political though they occur within a political context;
  4. Not entirely sociological, though the culture, values and experiences of both local communities and of western society guide decisions-makers.

Perhaps the more appropriate role of science in policy issues of an ecological nature is to help guide action after political consensus is attained. It is at this point that the predictive abilities of science are most useful; describing probable outcomes, monitoring, and refining actions developed to meet specific, agreed upon social, economic, and political ends.

Proposed Klamath Basin Solutions