The Role of Science, Engineering, and Technology in the Public Policy Process for Infrastructure and Natural Systems
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Interactions between societal, natural, and infrastructure systems can be beneficial or harmful to society. Society benefits from natural systems by being provided with the basic necessities of life (air, water, and food). However, events such as stratospheric ozone depletion demonstrate that society ultimately can be harmed by societal impacts on natural systems. Domain knowledge is developed from observation of natural, societal, and infrastructure systems. Domain knowledge is contained within scientific knowledge and engineering knowledge. Scientific knowledge is gained through structured observation and rigorous analysis of natural and societal systems. Engineering knowledge is partially developed from scientific knowledge and is used to manipulate natural and societal systems. Technology is the application of engineering knowledge. In the past two centuries scientific and engineering knowledge have produced technologies that affect the interaction between societal and natural systems. Although scientists and engineers are in positions to advise on policies to address problems involving societal/natural system interactions, their contributions are not always fully utilized. This research examines feedback mechanisms that describe societal, natural, and infrastructure system interaction to develop an improved understanding of the dynamic interactions between society, natural systems, infrastructure systems, scientific and engineering knowledge, technology, and public policy. These interactions are investing through and opposing case study analysis performed using computer simulation modeling. The stratospheric ozone depletion study represents a case in which domain experts successfully influenced public policy. The U.S. civilian nuclear power study represents a case in which domain experts were less successful in influencing public policy. The system dynamics methodology is used to construct these two highly integrated models of societal-natural system interaction. Individual model sectors, based on existing theory, describe natural/infrastructure systems, knowledge and technology development, societal risk perception, and public policy. The work reveals that the influence of scientists and engineers in the public policy is due in part to their ability to shift dominance between causal feedback mechanisms that seek to minimize societal risk from natural systems and feedback mechanisms that seek to minimize the economic risk of increased regulations. The ability to alter feedback mechanism dominance is not solely dependent upon scientists and engineers ability to develop knowledge but to a larger extent depends on their ability to interact with policy makers and society when describing issues involving natural and infrastructure systems.
Taylor, Timothy (2009). The Role of Science, Engineering, and Technology in the Public Policy Process for Infrastructure and Natural Systems. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from