The Farm Scale Evaluations evaluated

Policy reports | 08.04.2005 | 050408-04

Science is often used by the government to generate public support for its policies. However, the use of 'normal' science is not always effective. An example of this is the introduction of genetically modified (GM) crops. In the United Kingdom, the government has failed in its efforts to generate public support for its policy on GM agriculture by use of scientific research, including the Farm Scale Evaluations (FSE). Certain subjects are too complex and too contested by public debate for such an approach, and therefore an alternative is required. The methods of normal science may be complemented with those of 'post-normal' science. In this report the possibilities for using 'post-normal' science in the policy cycle are analysed. A number of recommendations are made for both the policy preparation and decision-making phases in the policy cycle with respect to increasing the support for decisions about innovations, such as: (1) involving as many interested parties and experts as possible (extended peer review), (2) not limiting the discussions to specific questions but including the underlying wider issues as well, and (3) formulating shared ambitions. The final deliberation is a learning process that requires the input of various parties plus the ambition to make joint progress, if a societally robust judgement is to be reached. Ultimately the government will have to take a decision in a transparent manner and ensure the enforcement of this. There are no standard solutions for the use of science in developing and enforcing policy. The government should realise that certain subjects, including technological innovations, may become so contested by public debate, as a result of media coverage and politicising, that the policy instruments normally used are no longer suitable. In its future reports, COGEM will inform the government in advance as to whether it intends to follow the method of 'normal' or 'post-normal’ science.

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