Review Of "The Power Of Scientific Knowledge: From Research To Public Policy" By R. Grundmann And N. Stehr

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Book Review

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Contemporary Sociology


The Power of Scientific Knowledge argues against “linear-rational” models of scientific expertise—notions that scientific knowledge originates with academics and then radiates into the real world on the basis of its objective merits. Against such a simple picture, Reiner Grundmann and Nico Stehr focus on the fact that there are actually numerous important types of experts involved in the influence of science and that its uptake depends crucially on social actors having the actual capacity to put it into practice. As a result, the “power” of a body of scientific knowledge— its potential for producing new actions—does not depend on its accuracy, and it can vary greatly by social context. These ideas build on Grundmann and Stehr’s previous work—this book is something of an empirical counterpart to their more theoretical 2011 treatise Experts: The Knowledge and Power of Expertise. It focuses on providing data and analytic tools rather than a theoretical framework, exploring three case studies in some depth: the success of John Maynard Keynes’ economic theories, the use of eugenics-based race theories in Nazi Germany, and the impact of scientists on policies concerning anthropogenic environmental change.

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