Using Science in a Political World: The Importance of Transparency in Natural Resource Regulation
RESCUING SCIENCE FROM POLITICS, Wendy Wagner, Rena Steinzor, eds., Cambridge University Press, July 2006
Posted: 8 Jun 2006
The process of using scientific information to make natural resource policy decisions is a complex one necessarily involving both political and scientific judgments. The fundamental challenge is to ensure that political judgments match societal goals and remain accountable to the public, while scientific judgments match our best understanding of the natural world and remain accountable to the relevant scientific community. Transparency is an important tool for ensuring both types of accountability. Transparency about who makes regulatory decisions, about the scientific basis for those decisions, and especially about the value choices made in the translation step from science to policy are essential to the effective use of scientific information in the political world of policymaking.
Yet transparency is notably lacking in natural resource regulatory decisions that bridge the worlds of science and policy. In particular, the value choices underlying those decisions are often hidden. In addition, it is often very difficult for outsiders to discover what role agency scientific advice ultimately played in a decision, or even what the substance of that advice was. I argue that the courts can and should address both problems, the first by applying well established principles of administrative law to demand that regulatory agencies reveal and explain their value choices, and the second by limiting the use of the deliberative process privilege to prevent disclosure of scientific reports and recommendations.
JEL Classification: K23, K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation