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Copyright © 2001 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance.

The following is the established format for referencing this article:
Stilgoe, J. 2001. Some reservations about the gap concept. Conservation Ecology 5(2): r2. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/vol5/iss2/resp2/

Response to Bradshaw and Borchers 2000. "Uncertainty as Information: Narrowing the Science–Policy Gap"

Some Reservations about the Gap Concept

Jack Stilgoe

University College, London

Published: October 30, 2001

Although Bradshaw and Borchers (2000) have made an admirable attempt to conceptualize the myriad problems of scientific uncertainty in policy, I have some serious reservations about the representation of the science–policy gap as a lag in public confidence. Recent developments in science studies have shown that to know science is not necessarily to love it.

The authors point out the importance of the different value sets used by government and science, but ignore the importance of the diversity of the values and knowledge held by society in general. We have seen many cases in which the broadening of a scientific consensus has led to a fall in public support, rather than a lagged increase (nuclear power might be one example). To aim to show the level of likely public confidence is to misunderstand the role of the public in scientific debate. As noted by Funtowicz and Ravetz (1990), the public continues to serve as a vital ingredient that aids in the recognition of complexity and the representation of previously unconsidered views.


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Bradshaw, G. A., and J. G. Borchers. 2000. Uncertainty as information: narrowing the science–policy gap. Conservation Ecology 4(1): 7. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/Journal/vol4/iss1/art7

Funtowicz, S. O., and J. R. Ravetz. 1992. Pages 251-274 in S. Krimsy and D. Golding, editors. Social theories of risk. Praeger, Westport, Connecticut, USA.

Address of Correspondent:
Jack Stilgoe
Department of Science and Technology Studies,
University College, London,
Gower Street,
London WC1E 6BT UK
Phone: 07946 388997

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