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Volume 24 • Number 1

January 2010



Who Legislates the Truth? Science, Organizational Governance, and Democratic Decision Making

by Andrew Brennan and Jeff Malpas

There has been a strong tendency in recent years, in countries such as Australia and the United States, for governmental and corporate spokespersons to present advice and information that comes from independent scientific sources as if it were no better grounded than that from any other source. Such a leveling out of all advice and information into mere “opinion” has been a key strategy in the assertion of corporate and governmental control over public debate and policy. In this paper, we aim to explore some of the factors that diminish the credibility and reliability of information within organizational structures, effectively undermining the value of that information; we argue for the importance of processes like those of peer review in maintaining the credibility and reliability of information that is so important to effective action and decision; and we also provide an analysis of the rationale that underpins such processes. One of our conclusions will be that processes like those of peer review succeed largely because of the way in which they depend upon, but also support, the dispersal of information and authority within an organizational structure so as to ensure both that information is accessible within the structure and also remains open to challenge and scrutiny.

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ISSN: 2152-0542