What is Scientific Mediation?

Two scientists with different perspectives don't have to agree on the merits, but they have to agree on why they disagree.

Scientific mediation works like this.  You bring together one scientist from each point of view.  Scientist A wants to do one thing, Scientist B wants the opposite.  Then with the help of a mediator, they write a joint paper.  And the purpose of the paper is to advise a government agency or a court. 

They write a joint paper where they state the areas they agree on in order to narrow down the dispute, the fundamental points that they disagree about, and then - this is the trick - they have to agree on why they disagree. 

They never have to agree on the merits, but they have to agree on why they disagree.  And in doing that, with the help of a mediator, they really begin to understand each other’s position and what happens is that their personal biases surface.  Because when the science is incomplete, and people are taking opposite sides, it’s because they’re filling in the gaps with their own persona biases and their political opinions.  And that’s not what we need from scientists.  We just want their scientific opinion.  We want to get rid of all that other stuff.  That’s not their job to tell us what to do politically when they’re advising the government.  

So, this process removes all of that and it shows what’s really known, what’s not known and why people from different political leanings will fall in different places along this spectrum of possibilities and then that report makes clear to the nonscientists, either the agency or also the public, what the real scientific dispute is about. 

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

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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