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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The Green Revolution and Political Myth

1101600111_400Along with Björn-Ola Linnér of Linköping University, I’ve completed a draft of a new paper titled “The Green Revolution and Political Myth.” It has been a long time in the drafting and we expect to submit soon after the new year.

Here is a sneak peak at the abstract: Continue reading “The Green Revolution and Political Myth”

What Would Robert K. Merton Say About Scientists who Sue?

quote-most-institutions-demand-unqualified-faith-but-the-institution-of-science-makes-skepticism-robert-k-merton-55-39-36Last week I had an op-ed in the WSJ arguing that scientific debates – even they become when nasty and personal – should not be taken to the courts. The motivation for the piece was a recent lawsuit filed by Stanford professor Mark Jacobson against a fellow researcher and the National Academy of Sciences. The lawsuit follows in form, substance and even venue an earlier (and still ongoing) lawsuit filed by Michael Mann of Penn State against several journalists.

Mann “responded” to my op-ed via a letter from his lawyer to the WSJ. Mann’s lawyer seeks to adopt the authority of sociologist Robert K. Merton, whose norms I invoked in my piece, to argue that I am wrong. Mann’s lawyer writes (without any evidence):

Were Merton alive today he would reject Mr. Pielke’s claim that science is stronger when scientists must turn the other cheek to attacks on their character.

I’m happy to engage a debate with Prof. Mann (via his lawyer) over the writings of Robert K. Merton, who was of course a giant in the sociology of scienceContinue reading “What Would Robert K. Merton Say About Scientists who Sue?”

Silas Ethics Lecture at Georgia Tech

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You can see a video of my Silas Ethics Lecture last month at Georgia Tech here.

Alice Dreger on Academic Freedom

Podcast on Science and Politics


I spoke with Prof Eric Garza of the University of Vermont about a wide range of issues in science and politics for his podcast, A Worldview Apart. Listen to it here.

Official Statistical Rebukes in the United Kingdom


The chair of the UK Statistics Authority, David Norgrove, sent a letter yesterday to UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson alleging that Johnson had engaged “a clear misuse of official statistics” (here in PDF). In an article in the Telegraph laying out his vision for Brexit, Johnson claimed, “Once we have settled our accounts, we will take back control of roughly £350m per week.”

The claim of “£350m per week” was central to the Vote Leave campaign and has been judged to have been a “potentially misleading” claim by the UK Statistics Authority (here in PDF). There are some interesting science policy questions raised by the practice of having a government statistics agency empowered to issue a rebuke of a government minister. Let’s take a look at this issue in a bit more depth.

Continue reading “Official Statistical Rebukes in the United Kingdom”

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!

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