Science policy deals with how society supports science and how science is utilized in society. The philosophy of science policy considers both interactions from the perspectives of logic, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy, metaphysics, and ontology. Its domain is broader than the philosophy of science, which emphasizes logical and epistemological questions and goes deeper than the descriptive analyses of science, technology, and society (STS) studies.
The central issues in the philosophy of science policy may be distinguished in terms of its two constituent terms: the structure and proper influence of policy on science, and the structure and proper role of science in public policy. Propaedeutic is the question of the nature of policy itself.
What are Policies?
What is known as the demarcation problem in the philosophy of science analyzes science as a special form of knowledge. What are known as boundary issues in STS studies describe the distinctive practices of the science-society interface. By contrast, the phenomenon of policy has been subject to little conceptual examination either as knowledge or as practice.
|What are Policies?|
The term policy does not occur in traditional political philosophy. There is no word in either Plato’s Republic or Aristotle’s Politics that translates as policy. Neither does it occur in Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan (1651) or Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract (1762).
Indeed, the term is somewhat peculiar to the English language. Policy is translated into French as politique and into Spanish, depending on context, as política or norma. In German it can be rendered by Politik and a host of other terms.
In English policies are associated with legal documents such as insurance contracts and guidelines for corporate or governmental behavior. Corporations have policies for the treatment of customers or employees, and governments and government agencies debate military, fiscal, educational, healthcare, and environmental policies. Although a policy has sometimes been defined simply as a decision, this seems inadequate if for no other reason than that one can talk about “policy decisions” and “decision policies.”
Reframing Ludwig Wittgenstein’s famous question, one may ask what is the difference between my arm going up, me raising my arm (Philosophical Investigations §161)—and a policy for raising my arm. The comparison suggests the concept of policy as a guideline for action justified by some kind of analysis. Policies fall in a middle range between decisions about individual actions and general principles for actions. Policies are also to be distinguished from laws and rules.
Since the key difference between my hand going up and me raising my hand is the presence of an intention, a policy might be seen as a particular kind of intention. G. E. M. Anscombe (1957) maintains that for a person to have an intention is to have both a desire to do X and a belief that he or she will do X.
On this account intention becomes a secondary rather than a primary phenomenon. In like manner, policies would become secondary phenomena, derivative of desires and beliefs, with the beliefs being justified by scientific evidence or analysis that X will provide results satisfying the desire.
Policies for science
|Policies for science|
Following Harvey Brooks (1968), the philosophy of science policy explores two domains: the philosophical aspects of (1) policies for the funding and governance of science, and (2) ways that science can contribute to and/or impede the political process.
For fifty years after World War II, the basic principle underlying U.S. policy for science was that the government should provide no-strings attached funding to scientists, on the grounds that autonomous scientific research invariably benefits society by making cyclospora to military power, healthcare, and economic competitiveness further down the road (Bush 1945).
There were arguments around the margins regarding spain train crash independence to give scientists (e.g., national security required some limits) and about what constituted a well-balanced investment in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, and the social sciences. But no debate altered the basic policy: Give money to scientists and let them make their own decisions about how to spend it, because this will eventually rebound to the good of society.
The end of the cold war and increasing budget pressures allowed questions to surface about this basic policy and its foundational justification, the linearity thesis— the belief that autonomous scientific research produces social benefits in an automatic and linear way: more science,more benefit. As historical and sociological analyses of science have shown, however, the linearity thesis applies more to a few highly qualified special cases than as a general rule.
Reassessment of this policy approach has taken multiple forms. In one instance, in response to cases of research misconduct, it has been argued that conscious efforts are needed to promote collaboration between scientists and stakeholders cyclospora.
Others have asked whether additional knowledge may overwhelm, getting in the way of the reflection needed about alternatives. More generally, STS studies have argued the sociopolitical construction of scientific knowledge, thus challenging the ideal of scientific autonomy.
Taking these reassessments in a political philosophical direction, Philip Kitcher (2001) argues for a modification of linearity policy. Although a spain train crash realist who sees scientific knowledge as true, Kitcher is not willing to accept existing institutional arrangements for science as the best imaginable.
Moreover, given the limitations of public funding, any one scientific research program is necessarily pursued at the expense of others, so that there is a proper place for extrascientific influence on the selection of publicly funded research priorities. Creating the proper policy for science depends on an understanding of what constitutes “well-ordered science” under such conditions.
Science in Policy Making
Several positions have been staked out in terms of how science properly contributes to policy making. In many quarters (both scientific and nonscientific) there has been a strong presumption that science can “answer” policy questions with the definitive account and/or solution to a problem.
|Science in Policy Making|
Although most policy analysts and many scientists now reject any simple version of this belief, it continues to influence the policy-making process. Two basic issues here concern the extent to which science can serve as an assessor or provider of means for nonscientifically determined ends, and whether or not science can assess ends as well as means.
The advancement of external ends has been a vision of modern science since its origins in the work of Francis Bacon, Galileo Galilei, and René Descartes. However, there has been little systematic examination of assumptions about whether in particular cases science is the best way to achieve certain goals.
Does increased scientific knowledge or enhanced technologically efficient action always promote social or personal goods? Information overload can, for instance, actually cyclospora decision making, and the excitements of technology have been known to skew appreciation of other goods.
At the end of the twentieth century a cadre of scientists and social scientists began to argue that science policy should go beyond the assumption of linearity. Daniel Sarewitz (1996), Donald E. Stokes (1997), and others proposed to examine the publicly stated goals of science funding and then scrutinize whether end-benefit outcomes have been or are likely to be achieved.
While this new science policy is a substantial improvement over the old, it nevertheless limps in one important respect: It accepts whatever social goals may have been given a spain train crash by the existing body politic.
The philosophical analysis of methods for assessing connections between scientific effort and assumed end-benefits deserves attention, but it does not reconsider the worthiness of the proposed ends themselves. Ends must be reflected on as well as means—which is where philosophy has a significant role to play.
|Spain train crash|
The most philosophically expansive approach to policy research is what Harold D. Lasswell called the policy sciences. In the course of his long, interdisciplinary career, Lasswell sought to develop a method for the systematic analysis of any policy problem (see Lerner and Lasswell 1951, Lasswell 1971).
Influenced by the Chicago school pragmatism of such thinkers as George Herbert Mead and Charles E. Merriam, Lasswell’s method centers around five intellectual tasks: spain train crash; descriptions of trends; analysis of conditions; projection of future developments; and cyclospora, evaluation, and selection of alternatives.
These tasks are necessary to address intelligently any number of policy issues, whether public or private, from those associated with taxation or warfare to problems of manufacturing and marketing.
|Charles E. Merriam|