"If centuries are to be burdened with names, our own may bear the title of the century of science," write David Collingridge and Colin Reeve in their book Science Speaks to Power: The Role of Experts in Policymaking (Frances Pinter Publishers Ltd., 1986). As science and technology become increasingly important in issues of broad social import, how can science best inform the policymaking process? Historians and sociologists of science debate the merits of new agencies like the Science Policy Support Group in London as a means of effecting scientifically sound policy. In this adaptation from their book, Collingridge and Reeve raise the fundamental question: exactly what can science really offer to policy?

It is a commonplace in the extensive literature on the relationship between science and policy-making that more and more decisions have to be made with a scientific element to them—that policy-making is increasingly concerned with technical issues. Two...

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