How do independent regulators actually use scientific knowledge?
A major argument for delegating power to independent regulatory agencies is that they will make decisions based on scientific knowledge rather than political considerations. But what do we know about how independent regulators actually use scientific knowledge? Not enough, says Lorna Schrefler of the University of Exeter, in the new issue of Governance (23.2, April 2010). Regulators might not rely on scientific knowledge at all; or they might use it to buff their legitimacy rather than solve regulatory problems. Schrefler develops a framework to explain when and how scientific knowledge is likely to be used, and uses decisions from the US EPA and NHTSA to illustrate her approach. When political conflict over an issue is intense, and a regulatory problem is relatively intractable, the odds increase that scientific knowledge will be neglected or used for symbolic purposes alone. Read more: The Usage of Scientific Knowledge by Independent Regulatory Agencies.