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Hardcover | $11.75 X | £9.95 | 296 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 9 graphs, 13 tables | July 2009 | ISBN: 9780262013123
Paperback | $35.00 Short | £27.95 | 296 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 9 graphs, 13 tables | July 2009 | ISBN: 9780262512961
eBook | $24.00 Short | July 2009 | ISBN: 9780262259804
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Science in Environmental Policy

The Politics of Objective Advice


Scientists often bring issues to the policy agenda, translating scientific questions into everyday language and political terms. When Roger Revelle characterized Earth as a spaceship in testimony to Congress in 1957, his evocative language framed the issue of our planet’s climate vulnerability in a way that technical discourse could not. In this book, Ann Campbell Keller examines the influence of scientists on environmental policymaking and makes the novel argument that scientists’ adherence to the role of neutral advisor varies over the course of the policymaking process. Keller divides the policy process into three stages—agenda setting, legislation, and implementation—and compares scientists’ influence on acid rain and climate change policy at these different stages over the course of several decades. She finds that scientists face more pressure to uphold the ideal of objectivity as policy-making processes advance and become more formalized, and thus are more likely to engage in advocacy and persuasion in the earlier, less formal, agenda-setting stage of the process. In the later, more structured legislative and implementation phases, scientists—working hard to give the appearance of neutral expertise—cede the role of persuader to others.

Keller draws on theoretical work in political science and science studies and on empirical evidence from scientific reports, news coverage, congressional hearings, and interviews. Focusing on comparable cases and considering scientists’ participation in them over time, she offers unique insights into how the context of decision making affects scientists’ policy influence and emphasizes the multiple pathways by which scientific meaning is constructed in public settings.

About the Author

Ann Campbell Keller is Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management in the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley.


“An incisive and expertly conducted inquiry into the realities and myths of scientific participation in environmental policy and politics. Given the abundance of environmental issues on the national agenda, this is an especially timely and valuable book.”
Daniel S. Greenberg, author of Science, Money, and Politics: Political Triumph and Ethical Erosion
“When scientists engage in policymaking, do they infuse their advice with values and policy prescriptions that go beyond the objective science? We’ve long known that the answer is ‘often, yes,’ but Ann Campbell Keller advances the debate ten leagues. With keen interpretive skills, she shows exactly how, where, when, and why scientists cross the porous boundary between science and policy. A marvelous piece of scholarship and a great read for anyone interested in policymaking and science.”
Deborah Stone, author of Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision Making