The importance of scientific experts
Effective decision-making requires reliable knowledge about the consequences of one’s alternative options. Private, commercial, and public choices are therefore largely dependent on scientific foreknowledge. This basic fact is reflected by the prominent rôle of expert advice – voiced through scientific reports or statements by advisory councils – in modern, democratic societies.
Scientific policy advice is supposed to satisfy high standards of scientific quality. Otherwise the allegedly objective advice would not allow decision-makers to reach their aims. Moreover, unfounded predictions risk to undermine democratic procedures by misleading both policy-makers and the public alike.
The contribution of the SRG
But how reliably can one forecast the consequences of complex policy-decisions anyway? Can we reasonably expect science to give accurate predictions of economic or complex natural processes? Where are the limits of scientific foreknowledge? And what do these imply for the rôle science and scientific policy advice should play in our democratic societies? The SRG will address these methodological issues from a general point of view. A major task of the SRG consists in developing a conceptual framework for adequately characterising the uncertainties involved in scientific predictions. In addition to carrying out this methodological inquiry, the SRG studies the decision-theoretic question how to handle uncertainties in a rational way. Clearly, acknowledging the limits of one’s foreknowledge must not stall the decision-making process altogether. The SRG will therefore design a decision-framework that guides policy-makers in situations of extreme uncertainty.
Given the complexity of many policy decisions, the general issues outlined above are virulent in various fields, comprising, for example, strategic management, economic policy, environmental regulation, or climate change policy. While taking these diverse applications into account, the SRG will especially focus on energy policy, and the objectivity of energy outlooks.
Besides teaming up with the relevant groups within KIT, the SRG will establish collaborations with further leading national and international institutions in the field of energy and climate prediction.