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Maieusis Through a Gated Membrane: 'Getting the Science Right' in Public Decisionmaking

103 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2012  

Deborah M. Hussey Freeland

University of San Francisco - School of Law

Date Written: April 30, 2012


Law meets science in a remarkable variety of contexts. While their interactions are often studied in particular contexts, general theories of their interaction are wanting. This paper presents a general model of an interface between law and science that identifies how their interaction must be structured to promote effective interdisciplinary collaboration, and then demonstrates how this model can be used to analyze problems as diverse as: a large-scale intergovernmental attempt at ecosystem restoration; and the effects of a method of science-based alternative dispute resolution on science and negotiated outcomes. In both cases, the model features of a properly functioning law-science interface are mapped onto the actual decisionmaking structure, yielding recommendations for its improved effectiveness.

The first analysis focuses on the legal and regulatory structure for the restoration of the Florida Everglades through adaptive management, examining federal water management laws affecting the Florida Everglades ecosystem and the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan authorized by the Water Resources Development Act of 2000 as implemented by the Secretary of the Army. Such an analysis has not been provided elsewhere. I identify the key features of a successful strategy for "getting the science right" in ecosystem restoration, and develop recommendations for the cooperative approach taken by its implementing agencies. I also describe these efforts' effects on the region's ecology and economy, and identify the scope of the planned restoration.

The second analysis turns to an alternative dispute resolution context: the model is applied to a formalized science-based dispute resolution process known as "joint fact-finding," resulting in a proposal for the development of joint fact-finding to introduce a structure for maintaining boundaries between scientific and dispute-resolution fact-finding processes while promoting their cooperation. I then recommend formal confluences between this more structured form of joint fact-finding and adaptive management for more effective science-based ecosystem management.

As the multiple government agencies involved determine how to effect WRDA 2000's adaptive assessment and monitoring strategy, other agencies and project teams are eager to learn how they might similarly address large-scale ecosystem restoration elsewhere, as are scholars and nongovernmental organizations around the world. These specific applications of the model are useful in themselves, and they further demonstrate the contributions of the general model in understanding law-science interfaces more broadly.

Keywords: Law & Science, science-law interfaces, maieutic, ethics of translation, gated membrane, boundary crossing, boundary work, professionalism, professional ethics, professional identity, role of scientist, role of science, ecosystem and ecosystem restoration, ecosystem management, ecosystem services

Suggested Citation

Hussey Freeland, Deborah M., Maieusis Through a Gated Membrane: 'Getting the Science Right' in Public Decisionmaking (April 30, 2012). Stanford Environmental Law Journal, Vol. 26, No. 2, 2007; Univ. of San Francisco Law Research Paper . Available at SSRN:

Deborah Hussey Freeland (Contact Author)

University of San Francisco - School of Law ( email )

2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
United States

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