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Science, values, and public policy

Home RESEARCHResearch Group Science, values, and public policy

Science, Values, and Public Policy

How to develop a better understanding of science in society by exploring the interplay of science, values, and public policy

This research is motivated by an apparent tension between recent attempts to base public policy on scientific evidence while it had been assumed that values make an unavoidable contribution to the policy process. Moreover, some philosophers of science interested in public policy have acknowledged and sometimes increasingly call for recognition of a constructive role for values in scientific research itself. The relationships between science and technology, values, and their role in public policy (including science and technology policy and environmental policy) will be investigated. By adopting a novel conjunction of philosophy of science, ethics, and policy-analysis, this research aims to elucidate the role of science and values in policy, to develop approaches to the assessment of past policy decisions, suggest guidelines to improve those of the future, and to assess the scientific methods used in policy-making.

Project

  • Evidence-based policy and normative policy

    Grant Fisher

    Public policy in the USA and UK is increasingly determined by scientific evidence. Although the idea of "evidence-based policy" might seem appealing (policy-making could be based on an "objective" scientific basis), this project investigates the uses and problems of evidence in policy-making. For example, what forms of evidence are legitimate in policy-making? To what extent can evidence provide a legitimate foundation for policy? It could be argued that scientific evidence might contribute to policy-decision but cannot validly determine them because those decisions are a matter of normative judgment (prescribing rather than describing). In short, there is an important logical reason why evidence in policy-making alone cannot determine what is in the public interest. This project will explore the advantages and limitations of evidence in policy-making, and well the role of judgements of value.

  • Ethics, environment, and policy

    Grant Fisher

    Recent philosophical debates concerning the role of role of ethical values environmental policy have highlighted the need to investigate the extent to which these values might contribute to the policy process. For example, it is often assumed that environmental policy is best decided by social scientific methods. Others have argued that in spite of divergent ethical values regarding the environment defended in academic settings and among stakeholders, convergence of policy decisions can be made. This project investigates deflationary positions regarding the role of ethical values in environmental policy in order to assess their legitimacy and improve the transparency of environmental policy decisions.