Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs
Environmental assessments like those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Research Council, assemble groups of experts to review, evaluate and assess, and ultimately, by writing reports, render judgment on the current state of knowledge about a wide range of fields that are relevant to public policy. In contrast to earlier research on the factors determining success of an assessment in terms of recognition and uptake by the policy community, an ongoing study begun in 2009 examines the process by which experts in such assessments reach conclusions on matters of fact and uncertainty. Over time, the project has employed archival research, interviews, and ethnographic observations. Results of the phase one of the project, using the first two of these approaches, were recently published in "Discerning Experts: The Practices of Scientific Assessment for Environmental Policy" (University of Chicago Press, 2019), which focuses on assessments of acid rain, the West Antarctic ice sheet, and ozone depletion that took place over a 40-year period. Among the questions addressed are the role of institutional factors (e.g., the way authors are chosen or assigned to particular topics) in determining the judgments rendered by assessment authors; the circumstances under which assessments, rather than merely reviewing existing understanding, produce new knowledge; the management of expert bias in assessments; and the influence of assessments on the broader basic research agenda of some fields.
Information regarding Prof. Oppenheimer's book, 'Discerning Experts, The Practices of Scientific Assessment for Environmental Policy' can be viewed by clicking on the link above.
Discussant: Gil Eyal, Professor of Sociology, Columbia University
Chair: Scott Barrett, Lenfest-Earth Institute Professor of Natural Resource Economics, Columbia University
This event is co-sponsored by The Earth Institute and The School of International and Public Affairs.