In the next Perspectives on Science seminar, Lukas Beck (Mercator Institute for Climate Change and Global Commons) and Henrik Thorén (Lund University) will give a talk on “Performativity, Transparency, and the Science-policy Interface: lessons from climate economics“.
The seminar takes place in hybrid format in person and online via Zoom from 14:15 to 15:45 on Monday the 5th of June 2023. To join the seminar, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for the location or Zoom invitation.
Perspectives on Science is a weekly research seminar which brings together experts from science studies and philosophy of science. It is organized by TINT – Centre for Philosophy of Social Science at the University of Helsinki. More information about the seminar here.
It is a well-known predicament of the social sciences that predictions—if the right circumstances are in place—can intervene on the very processes the predictions concern. Such reflexive predictions (Buck 1963) raise serious challenges to the social sciences for several reasons. They appear to impose constraints on the predictive capacities of the social sciences, they raise moral and ethical concerns about what social scientists can and should do, they risk threatening public trust in the social sciences, and finally they seem to have a potential for destabilizing the appropriate division of labor and responsibilities at the science-policy interface.
These issues have recently been revived and reexamined both in the context of economics (MacKenzie 2007; Guala 2007;Mäki 2013) and then even more recently in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic with respect to epidemiological modelling (Basshuysen et al. 2021; Basshuysen 2023; Winsberg and Harvard 2022) under the (controversial) label performativity.
With respect to this latter discussion suggestions have emerged on strategies or approaches that modelers can deploy in order to appropriately manage performative effects when models are used to inform policy and decision-making (Basshuysen et al. 2021; Basshuysen 2023). In this paper we engage we engage critically with these suggestions and argue on the basis of examples from climate economics. Beyond the two suggestions that have already been outlined, which can be labeled mitigation and appraisal we identify a third that revolves around ignoring performative effects or acting as if no performative effects are present, and suggest that in at least some cases this will be a preferable option. We conclude by discussing the respective merits and demerits of these strategies in terms of both knowledge requirements and how they may impinge on or disrupt the (appropriate) division of labor and responsibilities at the science-policy interface.
Lukas Beck is a post-doc at the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) in Berlin, where he works on the FORMAS-funded Rivet project on ‘Risk, values, and decision-making in the economics of climate change.’ His research focuses on economic methodology, the intersection between economics and cognitive science, and the normativity of the sciences.
Henrik Thorén is a researcher at the Department of Philosophy at Lund University, Sweden, and has a background in philosophy of science focusing in particular on the philosophy of sustainability and climate sciences. Currently he is the PI of the RIVET project and is involved in several other research projects focusing on issues having to do with the role of science in planning, policymaking, and society at large.