Open Access (free)

An Inconvenient Truth

A social representation of scientific expertise

Warren Pearce and Brigitte Nerlich

In 2006, Al Gore's climate change documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ was released, garnering substantial public attention. The film was used as part of a climate science education campaign with a view to building support for climate policies, a perspective that conveniently viewed a global public as suffering from an information deficit. In this chapter we discuss the film as an example of taking climate change expertise out of the pages of science journals and into the public sphere. While the purpose of the documentary was to persuade its audience of the consensual truth imparted by climate science experts, its effect was to become a lightning rod for dissent, critique and debate of that expertise. Overall, the film created a dominant representation of climate change, based on scientific expertise that became a touchstone for consent and dissent, action and reaction. If future engagement on climate change is to improve on the experience of 'An Inconvenient Truth', those taking part must be open to engaging with publics that might be regarded as inconvenient just as much as with invited and convenient ones. This conclusion supports John Dewey’s seminal argument that expert knowledge should be integrated in society.

Open Access (free)

Edited by: Brigitte Nerlich, Sarah Hartley, Sujatha Raman and Alexander Smith

This book contributes to the study of science and politics by shedding light on sometimes dark, hidden or ignored aspects of openness as a core policy agenda. While opening up of science to public scrutiny and public deliberation is good in principle, various dilemmas and problems are entailed by this move, which also should be made public and be discussed more openly. Developed as a solution to perceived crises in science/society relations, openness and transparency initiatives might hide ‘monsters’ that need to be made visible and need to be examined. Chapters in this book deal with four themes: transparency in the context of science in the public sphere; responsibility in the context of in contemporary research practice and governance, both globally and locally; experts in the context of policy-making, risk assessment and the regulation of science; and faith in the context of tensions and misunderstandings between science and religion. Each section of the book contains an opening essay by experts on a particular theme (Mark Brown, Benjamin Worthy, Barbara Prainsack/Sabina Leonelli, Chris Toumey). The book closes with an epilogue by Stephen Turner and an essay by John Holmwood. At present, openness in science is more important than ever. This book should be of interest to academics and members of the public who want to know more about the challenges and opportunities of 'making science public' - the theme of a Leverhulme Trust funded research programme on which this book is based.

Open Access (free)

Brigitte Nerlich, Sarah Hartley, Sujatha Raman and Alexander Thomas T. Smith