From Experts' Beliefs to Safety Standards: Explaining Preferred Radiation Protection Standards in Polarized Technical Communities
Barke, Richard P.
Silva, Carol L.
Jenkins-Smith, Hank C.
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Public policy debates often involve complex, high-stakes issues in which the views of experts within scientific and technical communities play a prominent role. Disputes over appropriate governmental actions concerning global climate change, genetically modified organisms, nuclear waste disposal, cloning, and stem cell research highlight the political importance that can be attached to debates within scientific communities. Not only do these debates influence the kinds of assumed causal relationships that underlie policy alternatives (e.g., the link between CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere and global temperatures, or the dispersal patterns of pollens from genetically modified corn), but also those appointed to advisory and technical policy making positions are often chosen from the participating scientific communities. The appointment to such positions has become an increasingly contentious process; some critics contend that experts’ policy positions have trumped their scientific standing in determining appointments to important science policy boards (Revkin 2004; Mooney 2005).