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”

Featured post

Trump’s S&T Policy


I’ve got an article in The Guardian today on Trump’s science and technology policy, which, I argue, is not really a thing. Here is the bottom ,ine:

There is not much of a US science and technology policy under the Trump administration. However, science and technology policies remain important to the nation. There is a gap here that the science community might fill, if they can avoid getting distracted by the outrageous guy in the White House who just doesn’t seem to care.

You can read the whole thing here.

AAAS Sends a Message

header_2016_1Organizations give awards to recognize those individuals who best display the values that organization seeks to represent and uphold. The American Association for the Advancement of Science is the leading scientific organization in the United States. From a vast pool of excellent scientists who engage with the public, the AAAS has decided in 2018 to give its prestigious award for Public Engagement with Science to climate scientist, Michael E. Mann.

I find this remarkable. Who is Dr. Mann? Continue reading “AAAS Sends a Message”

Analyzing Trump’s Tweets as Propaganda


Propaganda is a term of art in the field of political science. A useful, if technical, definition is “the management of collective attitudes by the manipulation of significant symbols” (read more here to unpack that). It is important to understand that all politicians and governments use propaganda, no matter their party or ideology. The word has a distinctly pejorative connotation in its common usage, but its technical definition is not necessarily pejorative. The concept of propaganda is absolutely essential to understanding politics and policy.

To that end, here are a few thoughts on President Trump’s propaganda technique used on Twitter. In his 1927 PhD dissertation (at p. 195), political scientist Harold Lasswell characterized four different functions of political propaganda:

  • to mobilize hatred against the enemy;
  • to preserve the friendship of allies;
  • to preserve the friendship and, if possible, to procure the cooperation of neutrals;
  • to demoralize the enemy.

The characterization remains influential 90 years later, with Lasswell’s 1927 dissertation having been cited in more than 80 articles last year (so says Google Scholar). Lasswell’s four functions of propaganda can be usefully applied to understanding the Tweets of President Trump. Here I’ll illustrate with examples from 2018.

Continue reading “Analyzing Trump’s Tweets as Propaganda”

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”

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