Scientific policy advice as a socio-epistemic practice: Textual procedures ascribing significance, executive authority and responsibility

Project description

The project aims to fill a conspicuous gap in current research on scientific policy advice. Scientific policy advice has been, and continues to be, a frequent object of research activities, especially in social sciences. It is therefore all the more surprising that so far there are hardly any linguistic and epistemological analyses of policy advisory texts as socio-epistemic practices. In order to fill this gap, the cooperation project of TU Darmstadt and KIT investigates how text products as artifacts of scientific policy advice can open up new approaches to this field of research. The hypothesis underlying this project is that scientists, in particular when acting as policy advisors, face the dilemma of maintaining scientific credibility while developing political effectiveness. This dilemma can be intensified or mitigated depending on the mutual expectations of roles and responsibilities. The project is specifically interested in how the current practice of scientific policy advice in Germany can be more precisely captured linguistically and epistemologically in terms of form, content, and function. Crucial to both approaches is the question of how the interplay of maintaining epistemic quality and generating social legitimacy is reflected in the texts produced. The linguistic and epistemological analyses are carried out exemplarily for the two policy fields bioenergy and water pollution. The corpus consists of texts published over the last twenty years by selected German institutions providing scientific policy advice (German Advisory Council on Global Change [WBGU], Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag [TAB], and German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina).

In addition, the project aims to make a robust interdisciplinary contribution to the ongoing debate on the responsibility of science in the face of societal and global challenges, specifically with respect to the deficient communication of scientific knowledge to the wider public. The critical self-reflection on the specific language and practices of science enabled by this is also intended to indirectly contribute to the public legitimation of science as a democratic institution.


Prof. Dr. Armin Grunwald
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe

Tel.: +49 721 608-22500