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Lucie White

Lucie White

NIAS fellow

Project title

Crisis and Catastrophe: Science-Based Policy Justification under Urgency and Uncertainty

Research question

How can we make justified policy decisions in a crisis, where we need to act quickly, but on limited and uncertain information?

Project description

An unexpected crisis demands urgent, rapid action. But rapid action means acting under severe uncertainty – with a very limited idea of the implications of public policy measures. This combination of urgency and severe uncertainty makes the ethical justification of policy measures very difficult.

Normal procedures for justification require long periods of evidence gathering to ensure that policy decisions are based on scientifically justified conclusions, and prolonged public consultation to establish that decisions are publicly justified. This is ruled out in a crisis. Yet the drastic policy measures that might be required to effectively contain a crisis are in particularly pressing need of adequate justification.

In this project Lucie White will examine how policy can be justified in a crisis. It will center around three questions:

1) What procedures or circumstances legitimize policy action in the face of severe uncertainty?

2) How can we retain public trust in scientific expertise and scientific advice under uncertainty?

3) What are the responsibilities of scientific advisors and policy-makers when acting on highly uncertain information?

Selected publications