On Thursday, November 9, Timo Maas, who works at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), received his PhD from Wageningen University (WUR). With his dissertation Transforming relations between science, policy and society for sustainable futures? he conducted research into the relationship between science, policy and society. “Politics and society expect too much from knowledge institutes,” says PBL researcher Timo Maas, “Knowledge should not dictate policy, but stimulate political discussion.”
Can improving relations between science, policy and society get us out of the mess that we are in? That is, in a nutshell, the question this thesis seeks to answer. There is increasingly widespread recognition that pressing sustainability challenges like climate change and biodiversity loss must be addressed. This sense of urgency is often accompanied by claims that expert knowledge has a key role to play in spurring change towards more sustainable futures.
This thesis investigates these claims, arguing that the potential value of expert knowledge is not self-evident. Indeed, making true on its promise requires dispensing with problematic assumptions about science, policy and society. The thesis analyses different roles, responsibilities and expectations involved with expert knowledge in societal and political decision-making. In this way, it develops an alternative account of how the role of expert knowledge can be improved to the benefit of contemporary democratic societies.