19 June 2009

Review of The Honest Broker in Policy Sciences

The journal Policy Sciences has published a review of The Honest Broker by Kevin Curry and Susan Clark. It is a long and thoughtful review, and very positive. Here are a few excerpts:
Roger Pielke Jr. offers a way to sort through the complicated relationships between scientists and decision making. His perceptive, clearly worded, and engaging book offers both important academic insights and a model of professional practice for anyone wishing to engage effectively with politics and policy.
Curry and Clark engage several earlier reviews of THB, and clearly present my position with respect to advocacy by scientists:
Some reviewers (e.g., Rosenberg 2007; Skolnikoff 2008) disapprove of Pielke’s criticism of issue advocacy, but they seem to miss the crux of his argument. Pielke does not argue against issue advocacy. In fact, he argues that all four of the roles he describes for scientists are "critically important and necessary in a functioning democracy" (p. 7). Pielke’s argument is simply that scientists should clearly identify when they are acting as issue advocates. They should not obscure their goal and standpoint by using the assumptions of the linear model of science, or assume value consensus is present when it is not, or claim to be concerned with intelligence when they are actually concerned with promotion.
The review offers some criticism as well, and it is well taken:
In our view, the biggest shortcoming of The Honest Broker is its failure to develop the role of the honest broker more fully, especially in terms of the common interest concept as explicated by Lasswell and McDougal (1992). Pielke notes that very few people fulfill the role of the honest broker, and he clearly advocates for more attention to it. He notes that the role will most likely be played by a committee of scientists and provides examples: the now-defunct U.S. Office of Technology Assessment, the European Enquete Commissions, and the Foresight process in the United Kingdom. We would have preferred a more thorough discussion of these cases, along with specific examples of how these organizations improved decision making by helping to clarify and secure common interest outcomes. We also expected suggestions for how committees of honest brokers might be integrated into our existing political and legal landscape. The lack of specificity here is unfortunate, because the role of the honest broker seems consistent with the commitment of the policy sciences to freedom through insight, knowledge integration, and an explicit engagement with values. Our guess is that the role of the honest broker is the role many policy scientists would choose for themselves.
You can buy a copy of The Honest Broker here.