Scientific mediation is an idea in response to having a scientific committee composed of experts write a report that poses some solutions to some technological or scientific problem, such a report often papers over the differences or else it might have a majority report and a minority report. 

That is often not very helpful either to the government or to the general public.  So the idea of scientific mediation is that scientists representing the crucial different sides in the important debate where the scientific issues have to be understood to make the wise decision, those scientists, first of all, stipulate what they agree on.  And for each of the areas in which they fundamental disagree they have to explain to each other’s satisfaction why they disagree.  

This usually brings out the nonscientific biases that lead the scientists to opposite conclusions based on the same scientific knowledge.  It also can make clear where there’s a lack of knowledge, and so it’s impossible to have a scientific consensus. 

And that’s the sort of information that I think nonscientists need to have in order to understand what the debate is really all about.  So, scientific mediation is a nice alternative to the usual approach, which is to appoint a committee of experts or a small number of experts to advise the decision makers.  And it’s unfortunately a process that hasn’t been used in the United States.  It’s used very extensively in certain foreign countries, especially Sweden. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

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