The Honest Broker

Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics

Second Edition of The Honest Broker

In 2007 I published The Honest Broker with Cambridge University Press. It has been, by far, the most influential academic publication of my career, with over 1000 cites according to Google Scholar.

Give its success, I have taken on the idea of a second edition with some trepidation, as I could mess up that which helped the book reach such a large audience.

But with the book’s 10 year anniversary next year (time does fly), I am taking the leap and working on a second edition. Continue reading “Second Edition of The Honest Broker”

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No Science Advisor: 171 Days and Counting


President Trump has established a new record. It has been 171 days without the nomination of a science advisor, who also holds the position of director of OSTP. Ronald Reagan held the record previously (he also has the mark for earliest appointment).

Sources: Various media reports.


Book Review: The Retreat of Western Liberalism


In the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump as US president a cartoon in The New Yorker (by @WillMcPhail and shown above) went viral. It shows passengers on a plane voting to replace the smug, out of touch pilot with a regular passenger, more like us.

The cartoon is fantastic, the type of thing that a political scientist like me could use as the basis for an in-depth discussion of the challenges of expertise and democracy in a 3-hour graduate seminar. But if you aren’t enrolled in a graduate course on contemporary politics, you are in luck.

Continue reading “Book Review: The Retreat of Western Liberalism”

Making Science Count in Policy Making

Above is a webinar that I participated in last week along with Pearl Dykstra, Professor of Empirical Sociology at Erasmus University Rotterdam and Member of the High Level Group of scientists advising the Cabinet of European Commissioners and Mark Ferguson,  Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland in October 2012.

The discussion was moderated by journalist and science writer Michele Cantazaro, who was recognized as European science writer of the year 2016. It was a good discussion and Prof. Dykstra and Dr. Ferguson are thoughtful on the practicalities of actually serving as a high-level science advisor to governments. I was in Tokyo at the time and it was deep into the middle the night. So if my comments are dreamlike, you’ll know why!

Technology Assessment as Political Myth


A bit of housekeeping.

Here is my 2015 keynote talk at the PACITA conference in Berlin. It is focused on technology assessment as political myth, concepts which are described in the talk. I focus on “basic research” and the “green revolution” as case studies of political myth found in technology assessment.

Trivia: Upon landing in Berlin to attend the conference I learned of the Grijalva “investigation” – made for a distracted few days.

Here is the link:

House Science Testimony


Last week I testified before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.  You can see the full hearing and the written statements from each of the witnesses here. You can jump right to my testimony (here in PDF), which focused on how members of Congress can help to secure scientific integrity in the information they receive from scientists.  Continue reading “House Science Testimony”

Propaganda Syllabus: Ignorance

One part of understanding propaganda and its effectiveness is understanding why people believe the things that they say they believe. But it is not just individuals — beliefs are shaped by many factors, including institutions and practices. Understanding the nature of belief is important for understanding why it is that knowledge alone (whether you call it facts, truth, science, or whatever) does not compel action.

This section of the propaganda syllabus focuses on ignorance, defined by the OED as a “Lack of knowledge or information.” What is ignorance and why does it occur? Continue reading “Propaganda Syllabus: Ignorance”

Propaganda Syllabus: Dynamics 1

It has been a busy semester so far, and I finally have a chance to revisit my evoloving propaganda syllabus. In this entry I include research on the dynamics of “the management of collective attitudes by the manipulation of significant symbols.”

In other words, how does propaganda shape collective attitudes? These papers provide some insight to that question. Propaganda dynamics can be thought of in terms communication, using the famous definition: who says what, to whom, how and with what effect. Continue reading “Propaganda Syllabus: Dynamics 1”

Scientists Need to up their Political Game

I have a piece in The Guardian this week with some suggestions for scientists who wish to oppose the words and deeds of the Trump Administration. I focus on propaganda, policy and politics. You can read it all here. I’m happy to hear your comments.

Propaganda Syllabus: Fake News

Here is the next installment of my propaganda syllabus, this time I focus on recent treatments of issues associated with what’s been called “fake news.” The notion of fake news is, of course, quite similar to how I’ve been using the concept of propaganda.

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. The next posting is tentatively under the category of”dynamics of belief.”

Borel, B. 2017. Fact-Checking Won’t Save Us From Fake News, FiveThirtyEight, Jan 4.

R. Darnton, 2017. The True History of Fake News, The New York Review of Books, 13 Feb.

Kloor, K. 2017. Journalism under attack, Issues in Science and Technology, Winter.

McAllister, T. 2012. Walter Lippmann and the Crisis in Journalism, Public Discourse.

Oremus, W. 2016. Stop Calling Everything “Fake News”, Salon, Dec 6.

Soll, J. 2016. The Long and Brutal History of Fake News, Politico, Dec 18.

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