Science Advice in an Environment of Trust: Trusted, but Not Trustworthy?

In this paper, Torbjørn Gundersen and Cathrine Holst examine trust in science advice mechanisms, (i.e. institutions) designed to include scientists and other experts in public policymaking to provide warranted knowledge relevant to policy issues and policy recommendation based on that knowledge.

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This paper examines the conditions of trustworthy science advice mechanisms, in which scientists have a mandated role to inform public policymaking. Based on the literature on epistemic trust and public trust in science, we argue that possession of relevant expertise, justified moral and political considerations, as well as proper institutional design are conditions for trustworthy science advice. In order to assess these conditions further, we explore the case of temporary advisory committees in Norway. These committees exemplify a de facto trusted and seemingly well-functioning science advice mechanism. Still, this mechanism turns out to poorly realize some central conditions of trustworthy science advice.

From this we draw three lessons. Firstly, it remains crucial to distinguish between well-placed and de facto trust. Secondly, some conditions of trustworthy science advice seem more significant than others and there are thresholds for realizing each condition. Thirdly, not only does the institutional design and organization of science advice matter more than often recognized; the trust and trustworthiness of the broader social and political context and institutional environment make a difference as well.

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Published Sep. 2, 2022 9:03 AM - Last modified Sep. 2, 2022 9:03 AM