Scientists as experts: A distinct role?

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 69:52-59 (2018)
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The role of scientists as experts is crucial to public policymaking. However, the expert role is contested and unsettled in both public and scholarly discourse. In this paper, I provide a systematic account of the role of scientists as experts in policymaking by examining whether there are any normatively relevant differences between this role and the role of scientists as researchers. Two different interpretations can be given of how the two roles relate to each other. The separability view states that there is a normatively relevant difference between the two roles, whereas the inseparability view denies that there is such a difference. Based on a systematic analysis of the central aspects of the role of scientists as experts – that is, its aim, context, mode of output, and standards, I propose a moderate version of the separability view. Whereas the aim of scientific research is typically to produce new knowledge through the use of scientific method for evaluation and dissemination in internal settings, the aim of the expert is to provide policymakers and the public with relevant and applicable knowledge that can premise political reasoning and deliberation.

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Torbjørn Gundersen
Oslo Metropolitan University


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