Issues

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Problem definition affects both how the policy-related issues will be addressed and how successfully SEAMLESS-IF will advocate the tested policies. Therefore, problem definition is not just an academic exercise. In other words, we consider the ‘boundary work’ between science and politics, or integrative modellers and policy makers, as a part of the process of problem definition and agenda formation. By science, we mean both social and technical science – and thus we like to consider the construction and deconstruction of policy images. By learning to analyze and synthesize problem definitions, scientists can learn to formulate issues in a way that integrates science and public policy perspectives, benefiting science, policy, and society. One very important role that scientists – especially those specializing in modelling or systems analysis – can play is to facilitate the integration of different types of knowledge into the definition of the policy problem. This contribution of scientists is necessary, but also challenging since it means that the scientists need to be able to recognize, understand, and value other forms of social knowledge. Indeed, one reason for placing science within the policy process is so that scientists can learn about social values, appreciate other ways of knowing, and recognize the limits of science in policy.

Second, scientists use methods designed to assess how different elements of a problem are related to one another. Is there a direct causal relationship or an indirect one? Is there no relationship at all? This critical contribution to policy inquiry means that spurious relationships – ones with no causal links – can be sorted out. Often these spurious relationships are popularly supported. It is the critical contribution of science to demonstrate when these beliefs are supported by evidence (reason) and when conventional wisdom is simply wrong. The role of scientists as ‘institutionalized critics’ naturally occur in deliberative policy analysis.


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