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"On tap, on top, or on the rack? The role of scientists in the wicked world of public policy-making"

Oct 26, 2011 | 02:00 PM

John Turnpenny, University of East Anglia, UK

 We hear much about the need for policy to be based on ‘sound science’ or ‘good evidence’.  Thousands of scientists spend millions of person-hours pushing the frontiers of knowledge, often funded by public money.  So the ‘demand’ for, and the ‘supply of’ evidence is clearly well-matched.  Or is it?  This talk is about the desire for evidence use in policy, the aims that different actors have for evidence, and how evidence is used in practice.  It is inspired by John’s personal journey from physicist to social scientist, and his desire to understand how useful science really is.  The talk starts by discussing what we mean by policy, what we mean by evidence, and - drawing on examples from John’s native UK - points out some of the, at times, ridiculous resulting contradictions.  These illustrate the many different purposes of using evidence in responding to ‘wicked’ policy problems, and the sheer challenges of doing so.  The talk also challenges the commonly-held concept of evidence use as a linear rational process, and tries to unpick this complicated relationship.  It will conclude with a discussion about the points raised, and John is very much looking forward to hearing German perspectives on the whole subject.


JOHN TURNPENNY is a Senior Research Associate at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK. With a background in Meteorology, Environmental Science and Social Policy, he has carried out interdisciplinary research on areas including participatory integrated assessment and the nature of the science-policy interface.  His current research interests include the use made of policy analysis in public policymaking, the 'real world' research needs of policymakers, the various constraints conditioning selection of policy analysis tools, and the application of ‘post-normal science’ in practice.

Time & Location

Oct 26, 2011 | 02:00 PM

Environmental Policy Research Centre, Ihnestr. 22, Room 3.1c