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ESS Autumn School: Scientific Policy-Advice under (Deep) Uncertainty – The Case of Energy Scenarios (13th Oct - 17th Oct, 2014)

Scientists are often supposed to provide scientific advice in a non-biased way in order to support rational decision-making in policy contexts. However, scientist might have own interests, which could lead to hazardous bias in scientific research. Additionally, most questions of interest concern long-term projections of developments such as the economy and climate change. Since these systems are very complex, the uncertainties of these projections are deep uncertainties, i.e. uncertainties which cannot be quantified probabilistically in a reliable way. In the face of these challenges it is difficult to elaborate what good scientific policy-advice amounts to and whether it can even help to justify decisions in policy-contexts in a rational way.

The ESS Autumn School is an advanced, interdisciplinary and interactive course for PhD students who work either theoretically on the above mentioned questions or take part in scientific policy-advice themselves. During the five days of the autumn school students will get to know both theoretical aspects of how scientific policy-advice should look like and practical aspects of how practitioners actually provide scientific policy-advice to policy-makers. Throughout the whole week students will discuss whether theoretical insights can be helpful in practical contexts.

Energy-scenarios represent a very interesting case at hand, since the long-term projections affiliated with the scenario-method are connected with deep uncertainties, but nevertheless are often used in studies to help policy-makers in their decision-making. Therefore, the autumn school will have a primary focus on energy-scenarios.

Key questions addressed in the ESS Autumn School

  • Is there an adequate normative theory of scientific policy-advice, that is, a theory of how scientists should inform policy-makers?

  • What is the role of scientists? What is the role of policy-makers?

  • What bearing has the role of values (esp. non-epistemic values) in science on how adequate scientific policy-advice should look like?

  • What kind of influence on scientific research by policy-makers is permissible? Or should policy-makers influence research at all?

  • How can decisions in case of deep uncertainties be justified in a rational way? Or what kind of policy recommendations can be justified by scientific findings?

  • What specific problems prevail in the case of energy-scenarios, which represent mere possibility statements which cannot be further qualified by probabilities?

  • How should scientific findings be communicated to policy makers?

  • What different kinds of uncertainties are there and how should they be communicated to policy-makers?

Invited practitioners will present case studies of science-driven policy-advice and subsequent discussions should be used to answer the following questions.

  • Can the presented case of scientific policy-advice be captured by any of the discussed normative theories?

  • Is the presented case consistent with normative criteria of adequate policy-advice?

  • What policy recommendations were justified in the case at hand and how?

  • How were uncertainties handled and communicated in the case at hand?

Further information

The ESS Autumn School will be conducted in English. The programme includes lectures, presentations and debates. PhD Students are highly encouraged to have an active participation through debates and discussions with speakers and participants during the sessions. Additionally, PhD students have the opportunity to present their work during poster-sessions.