The Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy (SKAPP) examines the nature of science and how it is used and misused in government decision-making and legal proceedings. Through empirical research, conversations among scholars, and publications, SKAPP aims to enhance understanding of how knowledge is generated and interpreted. SKAPP promotes transparent decision-making, based on the best available science, to protect public health.
How and why science works may be difficult for non-scientists to understand. The aura around science and scientists - reflecting the power of scientific understanding and its complexity - creates opportunities for misunderstanding and misuse of scientific evidence. Indeed, failure on the part of decision-makers to understand the norms of science may lead to inaccurate conclusions and inappropriate applications of scientific results.
Particularly in public policy and the courts, where the parties are intent on a specific outcome and selectively draw on scientific evidence to bolster their position, failure to understand how science works can lead to serious error. The consequences of such misunderstandings can be devastating for individuals, families, businesses and communities. Yet there is a growing disparity between the reality of scientific practice and increasingly prescriptive mandates for how decision-makers should evaluate scientific methods and evidence.
What can science tell us and not tell us about links between environmental exposures and disease? What is the nature of uncertainty in different scientific disciplines? What standards for scientific evidence are appropriate in different contexts? By examining questions like these, SKAPP aims to enhance understanding of the limits and contributions of science to court and government decisions that may have substantial long-term ramifications for public health.