Lunch Seminar Series: Prof. Adrian Treves
April 21 @ 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm
What does best mean in “best available science”?
STS Lunch Seminar with Adrian Treves
Professor, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
April 21, 12:30-1:30 pm, Nafziger Room (5055 Vilas Communication Hall)
Best available science (BAS) is a widespread requirement in environmental laws worldwide. More attention has been paid to ‘available’ than ‘best’ in jurisprudence and scholarship that addresses BAS in the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). This disparity might unintentionally lower the quality of evidence used in public policy-making. In scholarship concerning the quality of the science used by the-agencies implementing the ESA, attention was focused on the quality of individual studies. By contrast, the scientific community has been grappling with issues of quality more than availability for centuries and more recently with a reproducibility crisis that suggests many published studies are inaccurate or false. That realization has led to laborious processes of both identifying and retracting individual, flawed studies and to a new field named open science. Open science is aimed at improving the progress of science with reliable findings via processes of improving the reproducibility of research practices, from pre-publication to post-publication. I examine why policy-making has been more focused on the availability of science than its quality and why the scientific community is more concerned with quality than availability. I offer that comparison to stimulate greater mutual understanding between scientists and policy-makers or policy scholars. I also aim for a measure of convergence in these all-too-often separated fields. I offer an expansion of this focus to principles of reproducibility which involve the entire scientific community of authors, reviewers, editors, publishers, post-publication reviewers, and those who attempt replication. I discuss how standards of evidence lie in the expertise of policy-makers and especially judges. Greater attention to the standards of evidence used for agency decisions and judicial review promises more effective and reliable public policy, especially in fields with a mandate to use the best available science.
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