CRUtape™ Letters and “Post-Normal Science”
While browsing through the FOIA2009.zip files, I ran across the term “post-normal science” in a Word document called HOT_proposal.doc. Having never heard of it, I ran a google on it and came across the following:
Lead Authors: Silvio Funtowicz and Jerry Ravetz
“In the sorts of issue-driven science relating to the protection of health and the environment, typically facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high, and decisions urgent. The traditional distinction between ‘hard’, objective scientific facts and ‘soft’, subjective value-judgements is now inverted. All too often, we must make hard policy decisions where our only scientific inputs are irremediably soft. The requirement for the “sound science” that is frequently invoked as necessary for rational policy decisions may affectively conceal value-loadings that determine research conclusions and policy recommendations. In these new circumstances, invoking ‘truth’ as the goal of science is a distraction, or even a diversion from real tasks. A more relevant and robust guiding principle is quality, understood as a contextual property of scientific information.
A picture of reality that reduces complex phenomena to their simple, atomic elements can make effective use of a scientific methodology designed for controlled experimentation, abstract theory building and full quantification. But that is not best suited for the tasks of science-related policy today. The traditional ‘normal’ scientific mind-set fosters expectations of regularity, simplicity and certainty in the phenomena and in our interventions. But these can inhibit the growth of our understanding of the new problems and of appropriate methods for their solution.“
To summarize—or reiterate for those whose jaws are still bouncing off the keyboard—the point of “post-normal” science is to forego standard scientific methodology (data collection, results replication, etc.) and move on to more “holistic” methods of determining fact from fiction. Rather than those pesky steps of the scientific method, post-normal science claims to integrate the natural world with “social systems” to create:
“. . ..the appropriate methodology for integrating with complex natural and social systems.
When a problem is recognised as post-normal, even the routine research exercises take on a new character, for the value-loadings and uncertainties are no longer managed automatically or unselfconsciously. As they may be critical to the quality of the product in the policy context, they are the object of critical scrutiny by researchers themselves as well as by the peers, ordinary and extended. Thus ‘normal science’ itself becomes ‘post-normal’, and is thereby liberated from the fetters of its traditional unreflective, dogmatic style.
The facts that are taught from the textbooks used in training institutions are still necessary, but they are no longer sufficient. Contrary to the impression that the textbooks convey, in practice most problems have more than one plausible answer, and many have no well-defined scientific answer at all.”
And what to replace all those facts with? “Quality,” a term for which I can find no definition that fits this insane construct. The closest I came was the following from http://www.ijtr.org/Vol%201%20No1/4.%20Pereira_Funtowicz_IJTR_Article_Vol1_no1.pdf .
“As stated earlier, transdisciplinary practise arose as a response to the increasing complexity of scientific knowledge production, and the need to re-establish an active dialogue among a plurality of disciplines and forms of knowledge (Nicolescu 1999). This requirement now extends beyond the inter-operability of methods and techniques coming from different scientific disciplines; it is in fact a quest for quality, not (just) excellence in scientific terms, or (just) reliable knowledge but robustness also in societal terms (Gibbons 1999). The aim of knowledge quality assurance by extended peer review is precisely to open processes and products of policy relevant science to those who can legitimately verify its relevance, fitness for purpose and applicability in societal contexts, contributing with “extended insights and knowledge”.
Transdisciplinary practice and extended peer review face common challenges such as, for example, resistances and closure of institutional or established practice in research and policy, different conceptual and operational framings, knowledge representations and mediation (Guimarães Pereira & Funtowicz 2005). Both require processes of knowledge representation and mediation as the means to actually reconcile different types of knowledge, enhance the quality of policy processes.
TIDDD like tools are interfaces of mediation between policy spheres and other sectors of the society. This mediation is done with the help of experts, but what comes out of the GOUVERNe process is that a new class of expert is emerging, experts in creating contexts for co-production of knowledge, experts in mediation of different types of knowledge, perspectives and values, and eventually experts in making scattered nonorganised pieces of relevant knowledge intelligible to the organised and sometimes poorly flexible institutions: in a sense transdisciplinary experts.
Trans-disciplinarity practice and extended quality assurance processes are about conviviality of different knowledges. It is hoped that tools like TIDDD can help to create the spaces where co-production and integrations take place. The GOUVERNe TIDDD are in fact a transdisciplinary platforms.
Finally, transdisciplinary research entails more than “just” acknowledgement of different perspectives, it requires “language” harmonisation and social, cultural and political contextualisation. Transdisciplinary work requires more than “just” articulation of disciplinary work; it requires institutions, cultures, histories to be reflected in the methodological approaches adopted to address a specific problematique, since contextual uniquenesses do show on the ways people interpret events and respond to those and also on the relationships that can be established with the research community.
The work on TIDDD was financed by the European Commission under the GOUVERNe project (EC project # EVK1-1999-00032).
Based upon the search results, this “post-normal” scheme was created specifically for the environmental governance movement. Open your favorite search engine, key “post-normal science” +define quality into the box and browse the results.
And the Dr. Frankenstein behind this monster is none other than the EU. What have you old worlders done?
Apparently, someone at Hadley is rather enamored of this approach. From the HOT_proposal file:
“Climate change scientists are unable to define what would be an acceptable level and time-frame for global concentrations of greenhouse gases to be stabilised. This is because the evaluation of climate change risks is essentially a political issue. Moreover, scientific uncertainties make it very difficult to assess the likelihood of possible climate change events and thus to quantify the risks of climate change. In short, the climate change issue is characterised as an unstructured problem where both the values at stake as well as the science is uncertain and subject of debate.
This type of post-normal science problem requires a methodological framework within which scientists, policy makers and other stakeholders can enter into a dialogue to assess what level of ‘danger’ (in terms of possible impacts) could be attached to different levels of climate change, what could be the implications of false policy responses (policies being either too loose or too stringent), and hence, what long-term concentration levels (or alternative policy indicators) may be considered acceptable and non acceptable, and on what grounds (criteria/values).”
The properties/details screen for HOT_proposal.doc lists “ineke” as the author, with 11/28/02 @ 11:54 am as the document creation date.
The point of the proposal?
The purpose of the HOT project is to help better articulate and operationalise the ultimate objective as stated in Article 2 of the Climate Change Convention in specific terms on the basis of a science based policy dialogue. Issues to be addressed include the impacts upon stakeholders of various levels of stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations; costs and opportunities for mitigation/adaptation in different regions given national circumstances, the implications of climate change and mitigation/adaptation for sustainable development; and approaches to decision making for article 2 of the UNFCCC.
The project aims to:
• link the debate on medium-term (post 2012) climate policy targets to long-term perspectives on effective and fair climate change impact control and sustainable development;
• facilitate a scientifically well-informed dialogue amongst climate change policy stakeholders about the options for defining what would constitute dangerous interference with the climate system; as covered by Article 2 of the FCCC;
• improve insights in differences of perspectives and common ground for building policy action; and
• provide insights into options for fair and effective post-Kyoto global climate change regimes for mitigation, impacts and adaptation.
The objectives of this Phase 1 proposal are:
• To identify the possible participants in such a dialogue and to secure their commitment to the project;
• To come to a common problem definition, dialogue agenda and methodology that will allow for effective and fair participation of all participants in the dialogue on Article 2.
• To prepare a detailed project proposal for the dialogue phase, and
• To generate support amongst the policy and funding community for such a dialogue.
And who will be involved in this supposed dialogue? From the word document:
Asia 2 ( + 4) 2 ( + 4) 2 ( + 4) 2 (+ 4)
Africa 2 ( + 4) 2 ( + 4) 2 ( + 4) 2 ( + 4)
Lat Am 2 ( + 4) 2 ( + 4) 2 ( + 4) 2 ( + 4)
OECD/EIT4 ( +8) 4 ( + 4) 2 ( + 4) 2 ( + 4)
N.B. The numbers outside parenthesis indicate the participants selected for the international dialogue. The numbers inside the parenthesis indicate the participants that also participate in the regional dialogues.
A whopping 36 people to supposedly represent all of us who aren’t the least interested in bowing to “post-normal” science.
The proposal author cites Funtowicz thrice, so deniability is not an option.
I still haven’t been able to determine whether this proposal ever went anywhere. I wasn’t able to find it in the spreadsheets included in the .zip file but that’s hardly conclusive.
One may reasonably conclude, however, that CRU isn’t too terribly concerned with that “old” science based upon their criminally slipshod code, and their invocation of “post-normal” science gives them the perfect platform from which to launch the hostile takeover of the free world using euphemisms that would make Orwell blush. Stakeholders? Please.
If anyone knows whether this proposal was accepted I’d love to know where, when and by whom.