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The Honest Broker

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

by Roger Pielke, Jr.
Cambridge University Press
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Scientists have a choice concerning what role they should play in political debates and policy formation, particularly in terms of how they present their research. This book is about understanding this choice, what considerations are important to think about when deciding, and the consequences of such choices for the individual scientist and the broader scientific enterprise. Rather than prescribing what course of action each scientist ought to take, the book aims to identify a range of options for individual scientists to consider in making their own judgments about how they would like to position themselves in relation to policy and politics. Using examples from a range of scientific controversies and thought-provoking analogies from other walks of life, The Honest Broker challenges us all - scientists, politicians and citizens - to think carefully about how best science can contribute to policy-making and a healthy democracy.

New Review out in Minerva (November 2008) by Mark B. Brown:

. . . 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.

Click here to read the full review

Review out in ISIS (September 2008) by Ronald E. Dohl:

“...original, thought-provoking book”

“...important contribution Pielke has made to the history of recent science.”

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Review out in Social Studies of Science (June 2008) by Adam Briggle, Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Twente:

Review: Questioning Expertise

Review out in Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (May 2008) by Mark Shafer, Director of Climate Services at the Oklahoma Climatological Survey:

Pielke's discussion of climate change politics is excellent. He seizes on the central issue in climate change politics: that those opposed to action (based on value decisions) raise scientific uncertainty as a reason for delay or inaction. In response, scientists focus on reducing or eliminating uncertainty to undermine grounds for opposition to action rather than focusing on the merits of the argument, which is really a values-based decision irrespectie of the science.

The basic framework of the book and its discussion of the importance of considering values and uncertainty are strong. the numerous examples he offers are instructive. Anyone engaged in policy, even on the periphery, would benefit from this discussion.

Review out in Bioscience (April 2008) by EPA Scientist Robert Lackey:

Science and Democracy

Prometheus post It Should Be Read by Everyone

Review out in Review of Policy Research (January 2008):

"...this is a book that makes a genuine important contribution..."

"...the book is a valuable addition to the science and policy scene..."

Click here to read the full review by Eugene Skolnikoff, MIT.

The Honest Broker highlighted in MSNBC.com article (16 November 2007):

Al Gore for Science Czar? by Alan Boyle

Review out in The New Atlantis (Summer edition):

In Honest Broker, which takes only a few hours to read, he provides an incredibly concise and insightful assessment of the role of science (and scientists) in policy and a framework for evaluating the fit between the two as well as for identifying cases of "stealth advocacy." The thrust of the book resonates particularly well with environmental policy and its administration through agencies with science-policy missions, such as EPA, Fish & Wildlife, and the Forest Service, although by no means is it limited to that context in either content or usefulness.

Read the review in full: Devaluing Science by Jonathan H. Adler

Review out in Nature (23 August 2007 edition):

"Happily, the book by Roger Pielke, Jr. on the engagement of scientists in policy offers a pithy, insightful basis for discussing the contributions scientists can make to advising policy makers. . ."

"This is a clear, thought-provoking book that helps move us away from thinking of science as 'pure' and distinct from policy. It would make an excellent basis for a graduate seminar. It isn't a textbook, but a think-piece, and we all need to consider carefully our responsibility to engage as scientists in policy making."

Read the review in full: Four ways to take the policy plunge by Andrew A. Rosenberg

Review out in Science (17 August 2007 edition):

"In The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics, Roger Pielke Jr. successfully illuminates these challenges to science and scientists."

"Pielke's framework provides a helpful starting point for investigating factors that complicate the science-society relationship. . . Pielke deftly shows how scientists selections among these options can affect outcomes."

"the books direct language and concrete examples convey the concepts to a wide audience. By categorizing different roles in the often vexed but necessary relations between scientists and their social world, Pielke clarifies choices not only for scientists but also for the diverse members of democratic society, for whom scientific perspectives are an essential component of better policy."

Read the review in full: To Arbitrate or to Advocate? by Nathan E. Hultman

Other reviews:

" . . . wonderful, thought-provoking book . . . for readers like I, who are completely unaware of the literature in the study of Science, Technology, and Society, and who are interested in making sense of this political mess we are in right now, this book offers a beacon of guidance."
W. W. Wong, Princeton University
Read review in full

"There is plenty of excellent scholarship on science, technology, and society, but this is hands down the best treatment of the topic I've seen . . ."
J. B. Ruhl, Florida State University
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“Roger Pielke Jr. has produced a beautifully clear account of the often murky relationship between scientific advice and the policy process. While his distinction between pure scientist, science arbiter, issue advocate, and honest broker may not fully satisfy purists in Science and Technology Studies (STS), it ought to be compulsory reading for every science graduate and all decision makers in government, business, the judiciary, or campaigning groups who claim that their decisions are rooted in scientific evidence. It is also an invaluable guide to the ordinary citizen who just wants to navigate through the confusion and contradiction that often seems to surround the use of science in policy debates.”
Steve Rayner, James Martin Professor of Science and Civilization, University of Oxford

“Decision-making can be an important problem, both in everyday life and when science, politics, and policy are involved. The Honest Broker broadens the options of decision-making by going beyond the traditional roles of the ‘pure scientist’ or the ‘issue advocate’. Scientific knowledge can be integrated with stakeholder concerns if the policy context is taken into account in an adequate way. Based on extensive experience in the analysis of decisionmaking relating to scientific and technological issues, Roger Pielke Jr. goes a long way to be an honest broker himself: between science and democracy.”
Helga Nowotny, Vice-President of the Scientific Council of the European Research Council and Fellow at Wissenschaftszentrum Wien

"With an analytical honesty unmarred by hidden agendas, Roger Pielke brilliantly brings the murky interface of science and politics into perfect focus. Scientists and policy makers alike need to read this book, and need to absorb its wisdom."
Michael M. Crow, President, Arizona State University