Senior Researcher and Ethics Advisor, Maru Mormina, has published a new paper in Social Epistemology, Knowledge, Expertise and Science Advice During COVID-19: In Search of Epistemic Justice for the Wicked Problems of Post-Normal Times.
A consistent claim from governments around the world during the Coronavirus pandemic has been that they were following the science. This raises the question, central to the paper, whose knowledge counts in a pandemic? And more importantly, whose knowledge remains invisible?
Pandemics, like all wicked problems, inhabit what we may call a ‘postnormal’ space where stakes are high, facts uncertain and decisions urgent. They demand broad expertise, yet COVID-19 policy has narrowly focused on technofixes. Why? Epistemic injustice in the systems of expert advice may be part of the explanation. Epistemic injustices is a concept that was popularised by philosopher Miranda Fricker in her 2007 seminal book and refers to the type of injustice committed against individuals in their capacity as ‘knowers’. In the context of this paper, the concept of epistemic injustice is extended to include the de-legitimization of particular types of knowledge and particular experts.
Drawing from the work of sociologists Silvio Funtowicz and Jerry Ravetz on Post Normal Science, the paper suggests that to deal with complex crises like Covid-19 (but also climate change and financial crises, for example) policymaking needs to embrace greater pluralism, avoid groupthink, and challenge the accepted orthodoxy of outdated models that so often neglect the lived realities and demands of those left behind. This can only be done by rejecting a monolithic culture of expertise and embracing epistemic democracy in the practice of evidence based policy.
Maru Mormina (2022) Knowledge, Expertise and Science Advice During COVID-19: In Search of Epistemic Justice for the Wicked Problems of Post-Normal Times, Social Epistemology, DOI: 10.1080/02691728.2022.2103750
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