Having clarified what Normal Science is, Eli now moves on to Post Normal Policy. Post Normal Science was formulated by Silvio Funtowicz and Jerome Ravetz. It tries to chart a path when
- Facts are uncertain,
- Values in dispute,
- Stakes high, and
- Decisions urgent.
The science part is Pre-Normal Science, the stage at which something has been observed, but no one quite knows where it came from, what it means or how to understand it. Science actually has a way of dealing with such situations.
The initial flailing about to reach a useful understanding is later used by those who oppose action to obfuscate by insisting that still nothing is known, what is known is wrong, or at best that more research is needed. Oh yes, natural variability.
Science starts with the Pre-Normal Science stage. What was the cause? Every idea could be proposed and is. Normal science sorts through them. Discarding ones falsified by observations and those inconsistent with basic principles. Finally after a consensus forms the Jedi Council (IPCC, Ozone Secretariat, NRC, RS) clues in the policy makers.
Often after the science becomes sufficient there is no need for the last step except say, that’s a really cool paper. But sometimes the initial flailing about for a scientific solution can produce long lasting Post Normal Policy responses. These can be pernicious, and involve serious denial of reality.
Proposers of the discarded theories often still clutch them, but mostly they become opinionated Christmas Turkey Uncles/Aunts ignored within the scientific community and at the Family Festivals.
Post-Normal Policy ensues when normal science has reached a coherent, consilient consensus and it is clear that action is needed but it is economically or philosophically impossible for some to accept.
The response is to deny the utility of science and scientific judgment, thus the attacks on scientists and scientific panels that provide policy makers with their best scientific advice. It is important to remember that choosing up sides happens in the Pre-Normal Science stage before the scientific consensus emerges, but persists
Vested interests will frame research outside of the scientific consensus
Recognizing the division between Pre-Normal Science and Post-Normal Policy and the uses of the former to block action by in the later stage is useful for understanding the course of controversies that require normal science to understand policy responses.