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

Roger A. Pielke Jr

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Book Description

May 14 2007 0521694817 978-0521694810 1
For scientists seeking to play a positive role in policy and politics and contribute to the sustainability of the scientific enterprise, scientists have choices in what role they play. This book is about understanding this choice. Rather than prescribing what course of action each scientist ought to take, the book aims to identify a range of options. Using examples from a range of scientific controversies, 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.

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“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 decision-making 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 European Research Council and Fellow, Wissenschaftszentrum Wien

"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... [T]he book's 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."
Science, Nathan Hultman, Georgetown University

"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."
- Andrew A. Rosenburg, University of New Hampshire, Nature

"The Honest Broker is a must-read...An important should be read by everyone."
Robert T. Lackey, BioScience

"In effect, Pielke's book is a primer that can be a valuable introduction to clarifying the wide roles scientists can and do play, and can be useful in explaining what lies behind some of the controversies so evident today...Piekle clearly has been through the wars of science policy issues and shows his experience and, by implication, his frustration with those scientists who advocate policies they argue are dictated by scientific facts, without recognizing (or admitting) that their views are a result of their commitment to certain policy outcomes. He demonstrates a solid grasp of science and policy interactions, a sophisticated knowledge of U.S. science policy and institutions, and can write and express important ideas clearly and convincingly. For those reasons, the book is a valuable addition to the science and policy scene."
Eugene B. Skolnikoff, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Review of Policy Research

"...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."
Mark B. Brown, Minerva

"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 irrespective 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."
Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Mark Shafer, Director of Climate Services at the Oklahoma Climatological Survey

Book Description

Using examples from a range of scientific controversies, 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 by identifying and explaining the distinctive choices facing scientists about how their work is to be used.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2.9 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Direct Introduction, Without Nuance July 4 2007
By Personalization Nerd - Published on
This book has not been written for the policy analyst, but for those members of the science and technology community who either don't understand why science gets made a part of a political discussion or don't understand why their injection of scientific argument into a political discussion does little to resolve (and sometimes much to inflame) the argument. Pielke makes use of some very effective, if unsubtle, instruments to make his points and, as such, this text may irritate those who see much subtlety and complexity to the development of science and technology policy. However, as a primer for those who think "we just have to get the science right and then the problem will be resolved" (or, more importantly, for those who have found this to be a fallacy, but don't understand why), this is a powerful introduction. Moreover, while many elements of his argument can be found in his published work on climate change, it's nice to see it all brought together in one title.

The book's only real weakness is its effort to employ these notions to discuss elements of some of our present-day controversies. It's really stretching to use these notions to talk about the Bush Administration's rationales for the Iraq War, even though it's understandable why he might want to develop examples from outside the science/technology domain. However, the author's personal politics shine through enough to distract the reader from the argument, IMHO.
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading Oct. 24 2007
By Russell J Hall - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Honest Broker is a factual and insightful exploration of the role of science in policy development. The author has several insights that are worth remembering. As science struggles to become more relevant to decision-making, it is increasingly important for the purveyors of science and the public to become more aware of the opportunities for science to act as a positive force as a source of policy alternatives (in the terminology of the author) or as a blunt instrument wielded as a tool of issue or viewpoint advocates in advancing private agendas. Unfortunately, in the author's view, the traditions of classical science make it vulnerable to manipulation by those promoting narrowly-favored outcomes.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars if you want to be a fair scientist, this is an important book to read March 25 2014
By AngieBug24 - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
if you want to be a fair scientist, this is an important book to read. although sometimes you might have preferences, it is good to remember to be honest and fair when doing and reporting science
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I highly recommend it Nov. 6 2013
By Melinda Gormley - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Anyone interested in understanding science and technology policy should read this book. I've assigned it to undergraduate college students and use its contents to craft professional development seminars for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.
27 of 56 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars SLOPPY AND ABSURD ARGUMENTATION Aug. 2 2010
By Kåre Fog - Published on
The book has nine chapters. Seven of these contain general considerations on the relations between science, politics, and policies. What is of interest to Pielke is not the eventual truth of what a scientist says; his only interest is what policies result from the scientist's argumentation. To Pielke, it is OK for a scientist to be an issue advocate, i.e. to argue for a distinct political agenda - actually he does not reject the possibility that there could be two sets of scientists, viz. republican scientists and democratic scientists, because all science has political connotations (p. 93) . The best is, of course, to be `an honest broker' (as hinted at by the title of the book). The worst, however, is to postulate that you are a neutral scientist, when in fact you are a `stealth issue advocate'. Pielke criticizes the `linear model of science', according to which basic science is the prerequisite for applied science, which in turn is the prerequisite for formulation of policies. This line of thinking encourages the mapping of political interests onto science, i.e. it leads to a politicization of science, he says. But Pielke does not explain very well why this would happen, and he does not give us any useful presentation of any better alternative.

The points are then illustrated in two chapters dealing with concrete cases. One chapter is about what information was available on weapons of mass destruction when president Bush jr. decided to initiate the second Iraq war. This chapter is rather short and superficial and tells nothing that we do not all know. And then, one chapter (20 pages) deals with the criticism of Lomborg's book, The Skeptical Environmentalist. This chapter appears as the cornerstone of the whole argumentation. This is evident from the title of that chapter: "When scientists politicize science", and what he describes in that chapter, is something called `pathological politicization of science' (p. 129). Those who are guilty of this, are all those who criticize Lomborg. These are the persons who serve to illustrate all what Pielke dislikes.

Pielke cites a reader's letter from John Holdren, professor of environmental and resource science, who defends his criticism of Lomborg with the words: "To expose this pastiche of errors and misrepresentations was not a political act but a scientific duty." Pielke uses this statement as a departing point for the following argumentation : Lomborg supports a distinct policy. When Holdren argues against Lomborg, then it shows that Holdren tries to fight against that policy, which means that Holdren is out in a political business. So, although Holdren says that his actions were not politically motivated, but a scientific duty, Pielke refuses to believe him on his word. To Pielke, scientific truth is irrelevant, and when Holdren says that he defends scientific truth, then Holdren is actually doing the opposite, he is carrying out political lobbyism.

Pielke also cites the subtitle of the Scientific Americans theme issue against Lomborg from January 2002, "Science defends itself against The Skeptical Enviromentalist"". His comments to this (p. 129) are that " . . because particular scientific results compel certain actions and not others, there is little reason to distinguish science from politics. Consequently, the following subtitle would thus have been synonymous, "Our political perspective defends itself against the political agenda of The Skeptical Environmentalist" but it would have carried with it far less authority than masking politics in the cloth of science."

Pielke is completely oblivous of the possibility that maybe Lomborg's postulates are not true, and that maybe Lomborg deliberately distorts the evidence in order to seduce and mislead his readers. This, on the other hand, is the understanding that forms the basis of the Lomborg-errors web site, which demonstrates more than 500 concrete errors and flaws in Lomborg's books, of which about 100 are deliberate attempts to mislead people. From that understanding, it is obvious that there must be somebody who correct the errors, and that it is a scientific duty to point them out.

Pielke's interpretation, on the other hand, demands that such a thing as scientific truth does not exist. There may be a `democratic truth' and a `republican truth', but no single truth. If this conception becomes more widely accepted, then it will be the death of science as we know it. The whole idea behind science is to seek `the truth' and to apply a certain code of conduct in this search. If there is no single truth, then there can be no science. So, in his attempts to defend Lomborg, Pielke goes so far that he is willing to kill science and to postulate that science is just a peculiar form of politics.

Altogether, Pielke turns everything upside down. Chronic liars are presented as honest, and those who try to reveal dishonesty, are presented as culprits.

Not only in the Lomborg chapter, but in the whole book, Pielke's argumentation is unprecise, sloppy, and not very convincing. What Pielke performs, is actually `stealth issue advocacy' in the cloth of social science.

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