Mark Brown on The Honest Broker

December 30th, 2008

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Mark Brown, currently at Bielefeld University and a scholar I have a lot of respect for, has a review of The Honest Broker out in Minerva (here in PDF). In the review Brown’s discussion of science and democracy goes well beyond the discussion in THB, and makes for a very useful companion to the book. He writes:

. . . for anyone interested in a policy-oriented perspective on science advice, The Honest Broker offers an accessible and stimulating guide to improving the role of science advisors in politics and policymaking.

Brown provides a very nice summary of one part of the book, clearly getting the point that advocacy is not to be frowned upon, it is stealth advocacy that should be of concern:

By seeking to broaden scientists’ perception of the possible political roles they might adopt, Pielke himself plays the role of Honest Broker. He declines to advocate any one of his four models as an ideal appropriate to all contexts. He even defends the role usually most frowned upon, the Issue Advocate, saying that scientists should engage in issue advocacy ‘‘in cases where they feel strongly enough’’ (p. 94). But Pielke insists that if scientists advocate particular policies, they should do so openly and with reference to political values, rather than pretending that their preferred policies follow directly from their scientific claims. Such dissembling amounts to Stealth Issue Advocacy, which ultimately politicizes science advice and undermines the public credibility of science.

Pielke’s analysis of Stealth Issue Advocacy and its consequences is perhaps the book’s most important contribution.

Brown has an excellent paper out on the notion of “balance” on federal advisory committees that you can see here.

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