Hostname: page-component-59f8fd8595-gl4p7 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-03-21T19:13:10.368Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

Scientific Expertise and Risk Aggregation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022


When scientists are asked to give expert advice on risk-related questions, such as the authorization of medical drugs, deliberation often does not eliminate all disagreements. I propose to model these remaining discrepancies as differences in risk assessments and/or in risk acceptability thresholds. The normative question I consider, then, is how the individual expert views should best be aggregated. I discuss what “best” could mean, with an eye to some robustness considerations. I argue that the majority rule, which is currently often used in expert panels, has significant drawbacks.

Research Article
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Many thanks to Jan Sprenger, Cyrille Imbert, Camille Aron, Franz Dietrich, Naftali Weinberger, two anonymous referees for Philosophy of Science, participants at the DRI seminar (ENS, Paris), the EPS seminar (TiLPS, Tilburg University), the EEN2016 conference (Paris), and the PSA2016 conference (Atlanta) for valuable comments and insights. This work has benefited from an AXA postdoctoral fellowship.


Ackerman, Frank, and Heinzerling, Lisa 2004. Priceless: On Knowing the Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing. New York: New Press.Google Scholar
Anderson, Elizabeth. 1993. Value in Ethics and Economics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Balinski, Michel, and Laraki, Rida. 2010. Majority Judgment: Measuring, Ranking, and Electing. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
Beatty, John. 2017. “Consensus: Sometimes It Doesn’t Add Up.” In Landscapes of Collectivity, ed. Gissis, Snait, Lamm, Ehud, and Shavit, Ayelet. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
Bovens, Luc, and Rabinowicz, Wlodek. 2006. “Democratic Answers to Complex Questions: An Epistemic Perspective.” Synthese 150:131–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bradley, Richard, Dietrich, Franz, and List, Christian. 2014. “Aggregating Causal Judgments.” Philosophy of Science 81:491515.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cooke, Roger M. 1991. Experts in Uncertainty: Opinion and Subjective Probability in Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Dietrich, Franz, and List, Christian. 2016. “Probabilistic Opinion Pooling.” In Oxford Handbook of Probability and Philosophy, ed. Hájek, A. and Hitchcock, C. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Dietrich, Franz, and List, Christian. 2017. “Probabilistic Opinion Pooling Generalized Part Two: The Premise-Based Approach.” Social Choice and Welfare 48 (4): 787814.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dietrich, Franz, and List, Christian. 2018. “From Degrees of Belief to Binary Beliefs: Lessons from Judgment-Aggregation Theory.” Journal of Philosophy 115 (5): 225–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Douglas, Heather E. 2004. “The Irreducible Complexity of Objectivity.” Synthese 138:453–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
ECHA. 2015. “Rules of Procedure for the Committee for Risk Assessment.” Management Board Decision 21/2015. Ref. MB/19/2015 final, Part 1 RAC. Scholar
Hartmann, Stephan, and Sprenger, Jan. 2012. “Judgment Aggregation and the Problem of Tracking the Truth.” Synthese 187:209–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hauray, Boris, and Urfalino, Philippe. 2007. “Expertise scientifique et intérêts nationaux: L’évaluation européenne des médicaments 1965–2000.” Annales HSS 2:273–98.Google Scholar
Klein, Dominik, and Sprenger, Jan. 2015. “Modelling Individual Expertise in Group Judgments.” Economics and Philosophy 31:325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lehrer, Keith, and Wagner, Carl. 1981. Rational Consensus in Science and Society. Dordrecht: Reidel.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
List, Christian. 2012. “The Theory of Judgment Aggregation: An Introductory Review.” Synthese 187:179207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
List, Christian, and Pettit, Philip. 2011. Group Agency. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Martini, Carlo, and Sprenger, Jan. 2017. “Opinion Aggregation and Individual Expertise.” In Scientific Collaboration and Collective Knowledge, ed. Boyer-Kassem, T., Mayo-Wilson, C., and Weisberg, M. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
McConway, Kevin J. 1981. “Marginalization and Linear Opinion Pools.” Journal of the American Statistical Association 76 (374): 410–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Morreau, Michael. 2016. “Grading in Groups.” Economics and Philosophy 32:323–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Risse, Mathias. 2004. “Arguing for Majority Rule.” Journal of Political Philosophy 12 (1): 4164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stocker, Thomas F., et al. 2013. Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis; Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Urfalino, Philippe. 2014. “The Rule of Non-opposition: Opening Up Decision-Making by Consensus.” Journal of Political Philosophy 22 (3): 320–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Urfalino, Philippe, and Costa, Pascaline. 2015. “Secret-Public Voting in FDA Advisory Committees.” In Secrecy and Publicity in Votes and Debates, ed. Elster, Jon, 165–94. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Wagner, Carl. 1982. “Allocation, Lehrer Models, and the Consensus of Probabilities.” Theory and Decision 14:207–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar