Coping with Corruption within Complex Systems: methods for managing ambiguity
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research
Last modified: October 1, 2007
q: where does science stop and policy begin? a: it depends.
q: on what? a: who you ask, and when.
Particularly in areas of environmental management and sustainable development, the problems of scientized politics and politicized science are receiving growing attention from scientists (concerned about corruption of their work) and from political actors and analysts (concerned about corruption in politics). In this paper, we propose that concerns on both sides are justified but under theorised. Rather than viewing these as opposing arguments (science is either a-political or corrupt; politics is either openly debated or corrupt) we propose that these concerns about corruption of politics and of science are more appropriately understood as different perspectives on a single, complex problem: 'scientifically sensitive political issues cum politically sensitive scientific issues'.
Viewing debates and discussion concerning these 'corruptions' as simultaneously political and scientific, we propose that systematic recording and analysis of the specific politics/science relational conditions giving rise to specific occasions of such ambiguity can be helpful for characterising the shape and attributes of this complex problem. This could, in turn, prove helpful to both scientific and political actors who find themselves in these ambiguous situations. We provide this systematic attention by locating a series of 18 cases in point within a simple three by three matrix (x-axis ranking scientific uncertainty low to high and a y-axis ranking political uncertainty low to high) and conclude by suggesting some basic rules of thumb for acting on problems, depending upon their position within the matrix.