Science on Stage: Expert Advice as Public Drama

Science on Stage: Expert Advice as Public Drama

by Stephen Hilgartner
     
 

ISBN-10: 0804736464

ISBN-13: 9780804736466

Pub. Date: 10/28/2000

Publisher: Stanford University Press

Behind the headlines of our time stands an unobtrusive army of science advisors. Panels of scientific, medical, and engineering experts evaluate the safety of the food we eat, the drugs we take, and the cars we drive. But despite the enormous influence of science advice, its authority is often problematic, and struggles over expert advice are thus a crucial aspect

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Overview

Behind the headlines of our time stands an unobtrusive army of science advisors. Panels of scientific, medical, and engineering experts evaluate the safety of the food we eat, the drugs we take, and the cars we drive. But despite the enormous influence of science advice, its authority is often problematic, and struggles over expert advice are thus a crucial aspect of contemporary politics. Science on Stage is a theoretically informed and empirically grounded study of the social process through which the credibility of expert advice is produced, challenged, and sustained.

Building on the sociology of Erving Goffman, the author analyzes science advice as a form of performance, examining how advisory bodies work to bring authoritative advice to the public stage. From this perspective, advisory bodies emerge as performers who engage in impression management: they selectively reveal and conceal themselves, actively presenting some things to their audiences while hiding others "backstage."

The book demonstrates that techniques for information control—including stagecraft, strategic self-presentation, and unauthorized disclosures or "leaks"—play a fundamental role in efforts to create and contest expert authority. The author uncovers this complex assemblage of dramaturgical machinery through a richly detailed comparative analysis of three controversial reports on diet and health, including a proposed revision to the Recommended Daily Allowances, prepared by the National Academy of Sciences—the most prestigious source of expert advice in the United States today.

This lively and accessible analysis—which includes its own drama, complete with Greek chorus—provides not only new insights about science advice but also a fresh look at the social dimensions of scientific writing. The theatrical metaphor highlights issues that more familiar theoretical frameworks often leave waiting in the wings. In the author's hands, scientific texts emerge not just as rhetorical constructions or forms of discourse, but also as crucial parts of systems for controlling the enclosure and disclosure of information, and thereby for structuring relations between experts and their audiences.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780804736466
Publisher:
Stanford University Press
Publication date:
10/28/2000
Series:
Writing Science
Edition description:
1
Pages:
236
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)

Table of Contents

Tables and Figuresxv
1.Introduction3
Science Advice as Public Drama5
The Academy Complex20
The Reports on Diet and Health27
The Chapters Ahead40
2.Staging Authoritative Reports42
Front Stage: Diet, Nutrition, and Cancer43
Backstage: The NRC Process54
Leaks and Unauthorized Performances: The 1985 Draft of the RDAs70
Conclusions83
3.Attacking Advisory Reports86
Attacking Toward Healthful Diets88
Attacking Diet, Nutrition, and Cancer95
The Fate of the Reports105
4.The Character of the National Academy of Sciences113
The Public Debate over the Demise of the 1985 Draft115
The Academy's Announcement: A Drama of Order116
A Letter from the Chairman: A Play in Three Acts117
The Kamin Letter128
The Dramas Compared135
The Chairman's Reply141
Conclusions144
5.Conclusion146
Appendixes
A.The Academy Announcement151
B.The Kamin Letter155
Notes159
Bibliography185
Index205

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