Trustworthy Science Advice: The Case of Policy Recommendations

Res Publica 30 (Onine):1-19 (2023)
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This paper examines how science advice can provide policy recommendations in a trustworthy manner. Despite their major political importance, expert recommendations are understudied in the philosophy of science and social epistemology. Matthew Bennett has recently developed a notion of what he calls recommendation trust, according to which well-placed trust in experts’ policy recommendations requires that recommendations are aligned with the interests of the trust-giver. While interest alignment might be central to some cases of public trust, this paper argues against the significance of interest-alignment to meritorious public trust. First, political bodies and citizens can have a basic kind of well-placed recommendation trust in science advice based on an all-things-considered judgement regarding the possession of relevant competencies, responsible conduct, and a proper institutional design. Moreover, scientists’ policy recommendations can be seen as open-ended and as dynamic proposals that enable inter-institutional reasoning and political deliberation. Finally, by providing conditional recommendations, scientists can expand the scope of feasible policy options from which political bodies can choose, thus making the condition of interest alignment even less significant to the trustworthy provision of recommendations.

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Torbjørn Gundersen
Oslo Metropolitan University


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