Citizen participation in science policy by James C. Petersen

By James C. Petersen

The 1st book-length research of citizen participation within the formula of medical and technical coverage. Twelve essays and case reviews study very important examples of citizen activism, position them in the context of bigger participatory hobbies, discover the range of types citizen participation may possibly take, and view new choices for public involvement. detailed consciousness is given to public future health coverage and nuclear strength improvement. extra participants are: Jayanta Bandyopadhyay, Barry Checkoway, Daryl Chubin, Diana Dutton, Rachelle Hollander, John P. Hunt, Neil H. Katz, Sheldon Krimsky, Jane Kronick, Dorothy Nelkin, Alan Porter, Frederick A. Rossini, Randy Rydell, and Vandana Shiva.

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At that time, they focused on antiwar activities and the issue of military research in universities. More recently, their attention has turned to the environment, nuclear power, or biomedical research. These scientists question the potential risks in areas often obscured from public knowledge (Mazur, 1973). As differences between experts rise to public visibility, science no longer appears as an objective and compelling basis for policy. Disputes among experts, encouraged by the intrinsic uncertainty concerning the impact of science and technology, call attention to this limited ability to predict potential risks.

This ideal, consistent with the dominant American value of individualism, was an effective tool in confronting claims of special expertise by scientists and government officials (Petersen and Markle, 1981). Expertise, however, is a potent resource, and the public can ill afford to let utilities, developers, and corporations purchase a virtual monopoly of technical expertise. A key issue for citizen activists must be how to develop mechanisms to redistribute expertise more equitably. The notion that the publiclike government and industryshould have scientific advisers was a central theme in the public interest science movement of the 1970s (von Hippel and Primack, 1972; Primack and von Hippel, 1974).

Some critics charge that science is being transformed into entertainment in order to make it sell (Bernstein, 1981). In fact, there has long been a strong "gee whiz" tradition in science reporting that resulted in uncritical coverage of the highly dramatic. Science journalists are aware of the need for improving media coverage of science. The National Association of Science Writers and the Science Writing Educators Group are working in a variety of ways to upgrade the quality of science reporting.

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