In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

L 156 S cience, even science to be used in public policy, should not be value free. Scientists must make judgments about the acceptability of uncertainty, and these judgments require a range of values, including ethical and social values where relevant. The integrity of science depends not on keeping these values out of science, but on ensuring that values play only acceptable roles in reasoning. The direct role for values is acceptable only when deciding which research to pursue and, in a limited sense, how to pursue it. Once the work is under way, scientists must keep values to an indirect role, particularly when making judgments about which empirical claims should be made on the basis of available evidence. Values are not evidence, and should not take the place of evidence in our reasoning . But values are essential to meeting the basic moral responsibility to reflect on consequences of error. Because of the need for democratic accountability in science for policy, the judgments made using these values should not be clandestine. Scientists need to make explicit the values they use to make these judgments, whether in their own work or when drawing on the work of others to complete risk assessments. One might be concerned that requiring scientists to be clear about all the considerations that go into their judgments, including the values that shape their judgments about the sufficiency of evidence, would make risk assessment documents far too complicated and unwieldy, while placing a heavy burden on scientists. In making the values explicit Chapter 8 Values and Practices Douglas text.indd 156 4/16/09 2:47:19 PM values and practices • 157 in all the judgments, the advice may become opaque. Surely there must be some easier way to proceed, which would allow scientists to not have to trace every judgment back to its source in the final documents, making every consideration explicit. At the very least, scientists need not do all this work alone. There are two general ways to assist scientists in making the necessary judgments: (1) one can help the scientists make those judgments as the need arises throughout a study, and (2) one can decide prior to such judgments which particular values should be used to shape the judgments. For both of these approaches, greater public involvement would be beneficial . The public can help direct scientific studies (or the syntheses of studies such as risk assessments) that are to be used to make policy, assisting with the judgments as they occur throughout the process. The public can also engage directly with the social, economic, and moral values at issue in policy, deciding on a more general level what the value trade-offs should be. Experts can then use these value positions in their judgments during a particular risk assessment. I am not the first to suggest that increased public involvement in the science and policy process would be beneficial. At least two reports from the 1990s suggested the same thing: the National Research Council’s Understanding Risk (1996) and the Presidential/Congressional Commission on Risk Assessment and Risk Management’s report (1997a, 1997b). Both emphasize the need for greater public involvement in assessing risk, particularly for the framing of risk assessment questions. While the need for public involvement in framing risk assessments is crucial, it does not capture all of the ways in which public involvement is important. In particular, if one adds a concern over judgments on the sufficiency of evidence, the need for public involvement in what the NRC calls “analytic-deliberative processes” becomes even more apparent. The NRC’s analytic-deliberative process holds particular promise for incorporating the public into what has been the realm of scientists and technocrats. Conceiving of these processes in the NRC’s manner can help scientists and risk assessors meet their responsibilities to consider the consequences of error, to include all relevant values in their proper roles, and to do so in a democratic and transparent manner. The NRC’s conceptual framework also suggests an approach that allows the public to participate in risk assessments in a way that ensures its involvement poses no threat to basic scientific integrity. Before looking at the NRC’s report, a potential worry about increased direct public involvement with science in policy should be addressed. AllowDouglas text.indd 157 4/16/09 2:47:19 PM 158 • values and practices ing for direct public participation in risk assessment may seem to bypass the lines of democratic accountability discussed in the...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.