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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Gwen Ottinger
BIS 446
Bothell Campus

Science, Expertise, and Public Policy

Addresses how we incorporate both public participation and expert advice into democratic decision-making. Acknowledges that science in necessarily value-laden and that non-scientists often have salient knowledge, and examines how the tension between democracy and expertise has been reconciled in practices of, and proposals for, policy-making in Western democracies.

Class description

How do industrialized democracies make decisions about science-heavy issues, including health care, environmental protection, intellectual property, and privacy on the internet? How should they? We strive for public policies that incorporate our best scientific knowledge. But the processes of democratic decision-making also include public values and citizen participation. In this course, we will examine how science, values, and public participation intertwine in the making of public policy. You will learn - Why sound policy decisions can’t be made on the basis of science alone; - How scientists, engineers, and other technical experts participate in policy-making; - How non-experts contribute to policy decisions on issues with heavy technical content; and - How scientific knowledge is shaped by policy processes.

Student learning goals

Explain how scientific knowledge and public policy are co-constructed; how scientific experts maintain their authority in politicized realms of science policy; and how ordinary citizens are included—or not—in making science policy.

Read scholarly articles and make arguments about how their approaches and claims agree or differ.

Select and use concepts from academic research to analyze the dynamics of science, expert advice, and public participation in a real-world policy issue.

General method of instruction

Pre-class readings, seminar discussion.

Recommended preparation

As a 400-level course, you will be building on reading, writing, and research skills that you developed in your 300-level classes. In order to be successful in this course, you should already be able to - Write an essay that makes an argument and supports it with evidence; - Read an academic article and summarize its primary argument in a sentence or two; and - Use article databases and other library resources to find peer-reviewed articles on a given subject.

Class assignments and grading

Readings (2 - 3 articles or book chapters per week) Class participation (10%) Leading class discussion (5%) Weekly 1-page papers (40% total) Literature review (3-5 page paper; 15%) Final paper (5-7 pages; 30%)

see above


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Gwen Ottinger
Date: 01/28/2012