Brent S. Steel

Oregon State University
Public Policy

Oregon State University
318 Bexell Hall
Corvallis, Oregon
97331 |  Visit Personal Website

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I am currently doing working on several book projects including a coedited book on science and natural resource policy (Weber, Lach and Steel, Science and Problem Solving under Post-Normal Conditions: From Complex Problems to New Problem Solving Strategies, Oregon State University Press); a coauthored book on renewable energy policy (Pierce and Steel, Prospects for Alternative Energy Development in the U.S. West: Tilting at Windmills? Springer Press); and a book on science and politics (Wolters and Steel, Ideology, Science and Politics, Praeger Press).

Erika Allen Wolters and Brent S. Steel, When Ideology Trumps Science: Why We Question the Experts on Everything from Climate Change to Vaccinations (Praeger Publishers, 2018).
Abstract: In 2010, an outbreak of whooping cough in California infected more than 8,000 people, resulting in the hospitalization of more than 800 people and the death of 10 infants. In 2015, an outbreak of the measles in Disneyland infected more than 125 people. Both the whooping cough and the measles are vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs) that have been largely nonexistent in the United States for decades. As these cases demonstrate, individuals who prioritize ideology or personal beliefs above scientific consensus can impinge on society at large—and they illustrate how rejecting science has unfortunate results for public health and for the environment. When Ideology Trumps Science examines how proponents of scientific findings and the scientists responsible for conducting and communicating the applicable research to decision makers are encountering direct challenges to scientific consensus. Using examples from high-stakes policy debates centered on hot-button controversies such as climate change, GMO foods, immunization, stem cell research, abstinence-only education, and birth control, authors Wolters and Steel document how the contested nature of contemporary perspectives on science leads to the possibility that policymakers will not take science into account when making decisions that affect the general population. In addition, the book identifies ways in which liberals and conservatives have both contested issues of science when consensus diverges from their ideological positions and values. It is a compelling must-read for public policy students and practitioners.
Edward Weber, Denise Lach and Brent S. Steel, Science and Problem Solving under Post-Normal Conditions: From Complex Problems to New Problem Solving Strategies (Oregon State University Press, 2017).
Abstract: A “wicked problem” isn’t one with an evil nature, but a problem that is impossible or difficult to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often hard to recognize. Classic examples of wicked problems include economic, environmental, and political issues. We now live in a world full of wicked problems, most of them urgent challenges calling out for creative, democratic, and effective solutions. Ed Weber, Denise Lach, and Brent Steel, of the Oregon State University School of Public Policy, solicited papers from a wide variety of accomplished scholars in the fields of science, politics, and policy with significant research experience to address this challenge. The resultant collection focuses on major contemporary environmental and natural resource policy issues, and proposes an assortment of alternative problem-solving methodologies to tackle such problems. New Strategies for Wicked Problems will appeal to scholars, students, and decision-makers wrestling with wicked problems and “post-normal” science settings beyond simply environmental and natural resource-based issues. It will provide much needed guidance to policymakers, citizens, public managers, and various stakeholders who are struggling with wicked problems in their professional lives.
John C. Pierce and Brent S. Steel, Prospects for Alternative Energy Development in the U.S. West: Tilting at Windmills? (Springer Press, 2017).
Abstract: In recent years, attempts to site alternative energy technologies (e.g., wind, solar, wave) have been met by intense opposition from a variety of sources, including many environmentalists from whom one might expect support for non-carbon based renewable energy initiatives. In this context, this book poses the question of whether identifiable individual-level attributes (e.g., values, interests, knowledge, demographic characteristics) lead to support for or opposition to the development and implementation of alternative energy technologies. The book argues that there are indeed such discernible attributes, and moreover that their identification and exploration are important for the development of support strategies for a well-informed and achievable set of policies regarding renewable sources of energy. The research results presented in the main portion of the book provide the foundation for suggestions as to strategies for developing support for alternative energy technologies.
Brent S. Steel (ed.), Science and Politics: An A to Z Guide to Issues and Controversies (Sage/CQ Press, 2014).
Abstract: Recent U.S. partisan squabbles over science issues in the news such as the scope (or even existence) of global warming/climate change and the ethics of stem cell research are indicative of a larger tendency for scientific research agendas and practices to get entangled in major ideological divisions in the public arena. And this politicization of science (e.g., basic science, medical science, and the applied sciences and technology) is deepened by the key role of government funding in scientific research and development, making public financial support a source of controversy that injects even more politics into the realm of scientific research. Science and Politics explores the nexus of politics and science over time, both in the United States and also in U.S. interactions with other nations and international organizations. Chapters explore health, environmental, and social/cultural issues relating to science and politics; concerns relating to regulation and the practice of science; and key historical and contemporary events that have shaped our contemporary view of how science and politics intersect. Technological topics are also covered as they relate to critical applications of science. As a historical look at the intersection of science and politics, the book includes the perspectives of several curricular disciplines, from political science and sociology to all of the basic and applied sciences, from the history of science, medicine, and technology to communication and mass media studies.

Substantive Focus:
Energy and Natural Resource Policy SECONDARY
Environmental Policy PRIMARY
Science and Technology Policy
Comparative Public Policy

Theoretical Focus:
Policy Process Theory SECONDARY
Policy Analysis and Evaluation
Public Opinion PRIMARY