Uncertainty, politics and science

compilation of multiple exposure images with trees, glass and road sign

STEPS co-director Andy Stirling has written a series of three blog posts to introduce the STEPS Centre’s theme for 2019: Uncertainty.

In the series, he explores how uncertainty is framed and closed down, how this framing is shaped by policy makers and those who advise them, and the implications for science and innovation.

Although there are many different forms of incertitude, many of which cannot be easily calculated, there is an increasing drive to describe all forms of uncertainty as risks. This includes political pressure to ‘close down’ around decisions, apparently for ‘practical reasons’, but often in the end to support certain kinds of action under the illusion of control.

This is also seen in the interface between science, innovation and policy, where the importance of uncertainty – in the interests of scepticism, precaution, exploration and discussion of options – is denied, in favour of incumbent interests or agendas.

Read the series

Politics in the language of uncertainty

How politics closes down uncertainty

Towards a more convivial politics of science


Exploring uncertainty

The series is part of the STEPS Centre’s events, projects and writing on the theme of uncertainty and what it means for sustainability.

See also the introductory overview by Ian Scoones, and our theme page on Uncertainty for 2019.

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