Published works

Published works

Science is critical but it's not everything: our findings

TitleScience is critical but it's not everything: our findings
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsWeir, J, Neale, T, Clarke, L
Conference NameAFAC17
Date Published09/2017
PublisherBushfire and Natural Hazards CRC
Conference LocationSydney

While scientific institutions and forms of scientific knowledge are critical for understanding and mitigating natural hazard risk, there is significant debate about their real utility to policy and practice. We ask: how are practitioners able to use scientific methods and evidence to make risk reduction decisions; how useful is this science for arguing for and defending these decisions; and, what other knowledge sources might we need to reduce our risk? In this paper we provide an end-of-project synthesis of our research regarding the use of science and scientific research by risk mitigation practitioners across three case studies of bushfire and flood risk.

Publics demand and politicians promise greater certainty when it comes to understanding and mitigating the risks of traumatic natural hazard events. It is often the scientific approaches and methods that are expected to produce all the evidence required to know, and prove, the right course of action. This is when the cracks appear in the assumed linear model of  ‘evidenced-based policy and practice’. In this paper we interrogate what is meant by ‘scientific facts’, how they are employed to mitigate risk, and what the consequences are for policy and practice. We find that instead of relying solely on scientific approaches, or assuring publics or governments that certainty can be found, we need to affirm the critical importance of scientific methods and results whilst also incorporating other ways of understanding. The rich learnings from the various kinds of scientific inquiry are essential for complex problem solving, but are not sufficient in isolation.

Refereed DesignationRefereed
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