Scientific Expertise and Natural Resource Decisions: Social Science Participation on Interdisciplinary Scientific Committees

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Social scientists should seek greater involvement in interdisciplinary scientific committees, which often play important roles in natural resource management. In addition to our acknowledged areas of expertise, we have the ability to educate other disciplines about social sciences and, importantly, also about the realities of biophysical science input into policy processes. Two examples are worth noting. First, the asymmetry of scientific challenge can mean that biophysical science views/interpretations with favorable implications for organized groups’ interests may have been “accepted” with little scrutiny, relative to work having unfavorable implications. Second and paradoxically, the structure of decision making can mean that preferences for “scientific caution” will result in resource management decisions that are anything but cautious. These and other observations need to be tested through participant observation by a greater number of social scientists on scientific committees in the future.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: University of Wisconsin–Madison and University of California at Santa Barbara, 2: University of Louisiana–Lafayette

Publication date: March 1, 2002

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