Public Understanding of Science and Participatory Democracy

By Fatos Tarifa.

Published by The International Journal of Civic, Political, and Community Studies

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: March 14, 2014 $US5.00

As the gap between the scientific expertise and the average citizen is growing, the subject of the relationship between science policy and public opinion―or between knowledgeability and democracy―has been widely discussed in contemporary social science, particularly in the most advanced democracies. Questions about the role of “non-experts” in science and technology policymaking and scientific practice underlie the so-called “science wars” now raging between outspoken scientists and citizen activists. Broadly speaking, on the one side are those who believe that only “experts” are qualified to participate in the activities of the scientific community; laypeople do not have sufficient knowledge to discuss complex issues. On the other side are those who believe that smart minds and well-versed non-experts also can make worthwhile contributions to the debate on science and technology issues and should be involved in areas that affect their lives. Because science is one of the most valued democratic institutions, this paper argues that democracies should have democratic mechanisms for making science policy, and science policy should be grounded in good science.

Keywords: Science Policy, Knowledgeability, Public Opinion, Democracy

The International Journal of Civic, Political, and Community Studies, Volume 11, Issue 1, March 2014, pp.9-19. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: March 14, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 358.432KB)).

Prof. Fatos Tarifa

Professor, Institute of Social and Policy Studies, University of New York Tirana, Tirana, Tirana, Albania

Fatos Tarifa is professor of sociology and international relations at New York University in Tirana, and member of the Albanian Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received his PhD in sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and has served as Albanian ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands and to the United States.