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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter January 3, 2018

A Democratic Expertise? Public Participation in Science-based Decision-making

  • Dario Bevilacqua EMAIL logo
From the journal Global Jurist


The article focuses on the importance of technical and scientific assessments in present public regulation, notably in extra-national governance. The necessity to rely on experts’ opinions in order to neutralize decisions, so to avoid arbitrariness and harmonize policies, is both crucial and increasingly predominant. Nonetheless, such evaluations are not always neutral, sound or independent. This may produce arbitrary decisions for regulatory measures that need to be at least impartial. Instead of proposing to shift the decision-making on behalf of discretionary or political regulators, the article insists on the idea of improving the moment of scientific assessment. The tool to increase the reliability of science-based opinions without compromising scientific neutrality is to realize a knowledge-based participation, only open to qualified interveners. The latter should be experts belonging to no-profit private associations pursuing public interests, with the aim to open up the discussion in uncertain fields of scientific investigation. This would make science democratic, but aims to legitimize its opinions – by adding democratic devices to scientific assessment – when they are not objective and have a regulatory effect, assuming that experts are exercising an (indirect) role of public regulators. The implementation of a mechanism of public participation in scientific assessments – limited to a selected representation of stakeholders qualified for their competence, knowledge and preparation – would enhance a scientific debate that would make scientific assessments plural without conditioning them to public opinion. Such a model could have advantages and some drawbacks, although the latter could be overcome with the application of an effective and efficient legal discipline covering the entire procedure.

Published Online: 2018-01-03

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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