Getting Political Decisions to be Scientifically Sound
One of the more interesting places where science and politics interact is in the decision-making of public agencies staffed primarily by engineers, scientists, and analysts in other fields of technical expertise. It’s the nature of these agencies missions that requires them to do their problem-solving in a rigorously objective, even scientific way. A frustration we often hear – from technical analysts, as well as from their community outreach experts – is the following: “Our agency’s mission is of a technical/scientific nature. We’re responsible for addressing problems that require objective, dispassionate, factual — even scientific — analysis and decisions. That’s why we, the professionals working in this organization, have to base our recommendations on data, . . . valid, factual, objective data. To do anything less would be irresponsible and unprofessional. “The trouble is, we – i.e. the technically qualified experts – don’t get to make the policy decisions . . . We only get to make recommendations to the politically appointed and/or elected decision-makers; they get to make policy. “The advice we give our decision-makers is expert-advice; it is based on our technical/scientific expertise. They, however, don’t have professional expertise in our field, the field about which they get to make policy decisions. And, thus, their decisions ultimately are based more on subjective and/or political considerations than on the objective, factual, technical data that are the basis of our recommendations. …That’s why they often ignore our technical recommendations. When that happens, we and our agency fail in our mission. “We could get our mission accomplished a heck of a lot better, if someone could get “politics” out of our hair! . . . out of our problem-solving / decision-making process.” In this brownbag session we’ll show you that you need not throw up your hands in the face of politics. . . . You can be effective in spite of the fact that your technical public agency operates – and will always operate — in a political decision-making environment.