Special issue on Post Normal Science, Science, Technology & Human Values May 2011
Turnpenny et al., 2011 Where Now for Post-Normal Science?: A Critical Review of its Development, Definitions, and Uses
Abstract "Post-normal science" (PNS) has received much attention in recent years, but like many iconic concepts, it has attracted differing conceptualizations, applications, and implications, ranging from being a ‘‘cure-all’’ for democratic deficit to the key to achieving more sustainable futures. This editorial article introduces a Special Issue that takes stock of research on PNS and critically explores how such research may develop. Through reviewing the history and evolution of PNS, the authors seek to clarify the extant definitions, conceptualizations, and uses of PNS. The authors identify five broad areas of research on, or using, PNS which have developed over four decades. Their analysis suggests that the 1990s represent a symbolic watershed in the use of PNS terminology, when the concept was further developed and applied to highly complicated issues such as climate change. The authors particularly distinguish between uses of PNS as a normative prescription and as a practical method. Through this classification, they set out gaps and research questions arising. They then briefly summarize the Special Issue articles and consider their relationship to each other and the research questions raised by their analysis. They conclude by considering what the articles in this issue suggest for future theory building in PNS and related scholarship.
Kastenhofer, 2011 Risk Assessment of Emerging Technologies and Post-Normal Science
Abstract Post-Normal Science (PNS) as a theory links epistemology and governance. It not only focuses on problem situations where facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent, but also tries to develop epistemic approaches that allow for sound scientific answers. The following article addresses major epistemological challenges within a typical ‘‘wicked-problem situation’’, i.e., risk assessment of emerging technologies. Such challenges include (a) epistemological problems intrinsic to the task of proving the absence of risk, (b) problems related to the multi-sited production of evidence and the multitude of epistemic cultures involved, (c) the incompatibility of the various implicit objectives and (d) the complex actor-constellations, that shape not only the way scientific knowledge is translated into action, but also which kind of knowledge is produced and which experts are listened to. To illustrate and discuss these characteristics, the article draws on an empirical study of risk research in the fields of agri-biotechnology and telecommunication technology in Germany. It concludes that although some aspects of PNS are already part of current epistemic practices in these fields, a state of ‘‘functional post-normality’’ depends upon a meaningful co-evolution between post-normal science and post-normal governance that has not yet been achieved.
Farrell, 2011 Snow White and the Wicked Problems of the West: A Look at the Lines between Empirical Description and Normative Prescription
Abstract This article discusses the relationship between the origins of the concept of post-normal science, its potential as a heuristic and the phenomenon of complex science entailed policy problems in late industrial societies (wicked problems of the West). Drawing on arguments presented in the early works of Funtowicz and Ravetz, it is proposed that there is a fundamentally empirical character to the post-normal science call for democratizing expertise, which serves as an antidote to late industrial poisoning of the fairy tale ideal (Snow White) of a clean divide between science and politics. Post-normal science extended-peer-review methodology is interpreted as a response to a crisis in the governance of science. Rather than viewing extended-peer-review processes as products of the post-normal science discourse, here the post-normal science discourse is understood to provide a heuristic lens through which existing complex science/society collaborations and conflicts can be better understood. Two different post-normal science situations—management of mega-contamination in Bitterfeld, Germany, and eviction of the Parakuiyo Maasai from the eastern wetlands of the Usangu plains of Tanzania—are presented and the implications of their de facto extended-peer-review structures are discussed, to illustrate this heuristic potential.
Petersen et al., 2011 Post-Normal Science in Practice at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency
Abstract About a decade ago, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) unwittingly embarked on a transition from a technocratic model of science advising to the paradigm of ‘‘post-normal science’’ (PNS). In response to a scandal around uncertainty management in 1999, a Guidance for ‘‘Uncertainty Assessment and Communication’’ was developed with advice from the initiators of the PNS concept and was introduced in 2003. This was followed in 2007 by a ‘‘Stakeholder Participation’’ Guidance. In this article, the authors provide a combined insider/outsider perspective on the transition process. The authors assess the extent to which the PNS paradigm has delivered new approaches in the agency’s practice and analyze two projects—on long-term options for Dutch sustainable development policy and for urban development policy—the latter in somewhat more detail. The authors identify several paradoxes PBL encounters when putting the PNS concept into practice. It is concluded that an openness to other styles of work than the technocratic model has become visible, but that the introduction of the PNS paradigm is still in its early stage.
Wesselink and Hoppe, 2011 If Post-Normal Science is the Solution, What is the Problem?: The Politics of Activist Environmental Science
Abstract Post-normal science (PNS) is presented by its proponents as a new way of doing science that deals with uncertainties, value diversity or antagonism, and high decision stakes and urgency, with the ultimate goal of remedying the pathologies of the global industrial system for which, according to Funtowicz and Ravetz, existing science forms the basis. The authors critically examine whether PNS can fulfill this claim in the light of empirical and theoretical work on politics and policy making. The authors credit PNS as an innovative frontrunner in raising important issues regarding the limited problem-solving capacity of ‘‘normal science’’ and ‘‘professional consultancy.’’ Yet, the authors notice that PNS lacks important considerations about the governance of problems and aspects of participatory and deliberative democracy. PNS in effect implies that methodological ‘‘ratiocination’’ would prevail over political deliberation and democratic interaction and that merely changing scientific input in public policy making would have the power to change its outcomes. This scientistic hubris can be traced back to PNS’s origin in concerned scientists’ activism, which in effect accessed the political arena through the scientific entrance. The authors conclude that the art of politics needs to come back into the discussion on environmental problems if societal change is to occur.