Balancing formalisation of procedures against professional judgement in synthesising science for policy purposes: the case of the IPCC
Göran Sundqvist (University of Gothenburg)
Paper short abstract:
The aim of this paper is to provide a better understanding of the interplay of formal tools and informal expertise in the IPCC work of producing assessment reports. In this respect, we focus on how the IPCC, in the new post-Paris situation, handles i) uncertainty management and ii) policy relevance.
Paper long abstract:
The aim of this paper is to provide a better understanding of the interplay of formal tools and informal expertise in the IPCC work of producing assessment reports. Any effort at synthesising research findings for policy purposes must rely on a balance between formalised procedures and expert judgements. However, these balancing acts are not well understood. STS scholars often focus on the significance of informal considerations and negotiations in scientific practice. Practitioners of many disciplines, on the other hand, rely extensively on measuring instruments, protocols and other formal tools, often discussed by STS scholars under the heading of mechanical objectivity. Porter (1995) emphasises the political utility of mechanical objectivity, while arguing that those are helpful when contested decisions are to be justified. To these exogenous incentives of formalisation we add endogenous incentives, arising within research communities seeking to align techniques of gathering and processing data. This paper describes the manner in which the IPCC, relying on a combination of formalised procedures and expert judgements (based on exogenous and endogenous incentives), handles i) uncertainty management (how to specify what is known and what remains uncertain) and ii) policy relevance (how to get the policy connection right). In addition to offering a contribution to the understanding of key issues underlying the work of the IPCC, including focusing on continuity as well as the new post-Paris situation, in which both uncertainty management and relevance are challenging issues, we also offer recommendations on where formalisation is appropriate and where it should be avoided.
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