From time to time I have questioned how different groups have characterized the need for “science” as the basis for planning or for a planning rule. I have argued that we cannot just dive in and make pronouncements about the role of science, without talking about the findings of the academic discipline of science and technology studies. Jerry Ravetz is one of the folks who has articulated the concept of “post-normal science.”
Post-Normal Science is a concept developed by Silvio Funtowicz and Jerome Ravetz, attempting to characterise a methodology of inquiry that is appropriate for cases where “facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent”. It is primarily seen in the context of the debate over global warming and other similar, long-term issues where we possess less information than we would like.
This is an interesting piece by Mr. Ravetz on some of the current climate science quandaries. We don’t talk much about “post-normal science” and the role of extended peer communities in our day to day FS world. I’d be interested in what you think of this piece and his closing statement on the democratization of knowledge and power, and the role of the extended peer community and the blogosphere:
The new technologies of communications are revolutionising knowledge and power in many areas. The extended peer community of science on the blogosphere will be playing its part in that process. Let dialogue commence!
So we want a simplier, more adaptive management structure for forest planning and implementation? This won’t work until we first address the questions of public accountability and success in court.
In his law review article “Regulation by Adaptive Management – Is it Possible?”, Florida State Law Professor J.B. Ruhl argues that environmental regulation (which can also be applied to forest planning) needs to move away from “prescriptive regulation” to adaptive management, but there are barriers.
If we were to apply an adaptive management approach in forest planning, the Forest Service needs to consider the battles that Ruhl says will come from three fronts: legislative, the public, and the courts. He gives a case study of a Fish and Wildlife Service adaptive management approach to the Endangered Species Act. He observes that over time, agencies find that interest groups and the courts peck away at adaptive agency behavior, and that under conventional administrative law, agencies adopt adaptive management at their own peril.
Ruhl suggests a model of regulation (which we could embed in our forest plans) that sets boundaries that can be monitored and enforced in courts. There are two elements that we could put into plans. First, a decision shouldn’t be altered too soon after being made – what Ruhl calls “volatility.” A radical departure made quickly after the initial position suggests that the agency’s operational model is faulty, its monitoring is defective, or something else is fundamentally flawed. The other problem is the concern that an accumulation of small adjustments over time may put the agency too far from its initial position – what Ruhl calls “drift.” So a forest plan could establish the boundary of acceptable volatility (narrow at first which can broaden over time), and a broader boundary of acceptable drift. What would such a plan look like?