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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: November 2019

Chapter 4 - The Third Wave of Science Studies


The start of the “Third Wave of science studies” dates to a paper we wrote that was published in April 2002 by the journal Social Studies of Science (Collins & Evans, 2002). The paper challenged the idea, then dominant in science and technology studies (STS), that the problems associated with the role of science in policy making could be solved by reducing the influence of scientific experts and giving more rights in these matters to ordinary citizens. The Third Wave paper (hereafter 3Wave) set out a normative theory of expertise that remains consistent with the sociology of scientific knowledge but which can be used to argue against both an excessive reliance on science and an unrestrained suspicion of expertise. The trick is to turn attention from how truth is made to who is an expert and concentrate on making the “best” decisions rather than the “right” decisions. It can take half a century or more to know what was the right decision, but one can decide on the best decision by taking advice from the best experts and experts can be identified in the short term.