Richard Barke

Georgia Institute of Technology
School of Public Policy

685 Cherry Street
Atlanta, GA
30332-0345 |  Visit Personal Website

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I am immersed in a long-range, large-scale project with Kristie Champlin Gurley that examines political and policy challenges in considering the interests of future generations.

Silva, Carol, Hank Jenkins-Smith, and Richard Barke. 2007. “Reconciling Scientists’ Beliefs about Radiation Risks and Social Norms: Explaining Preferred Radiation Protection Standards.” Risk Analysis 27 (3): 755-773.
Abstract: Social scientists have argued about the role of political beliefs in highly charged policy debates among scientific experts. In debates about environmental hazards, the focus of contention is likely to rest on the appropriate scientific assumptions to inform safety standards. When scientific communities are polarized, one would expect to find systematic differences among combatants in the choice of appropriate assumptions, and variation in the application of ?precaution? in standard setting. We test this proposition using an experiment applied in a mail survey format to groups of scientists from opposing sides of the nuclear policy debate. Questions were asked about the role of political, social, and epistemological beliefs in reaching scientific and policy judgments about the relationship between radiation dose and cancer incidence in human populations. We find that the precautionary tendency is pervasive regardless of whether the scientist is associated with a putatively pro- or anti-nuclear group. Using a multinomial logit model, we explain a modest percentage of the variation in the choice of preferred judgments about safety standards, but find that distinct sets of political and social values are significantly associated with policy positions among scientists. Implications for scientific advice to policymakers are discussed.
Barke, Richard. 2009. “Balancing Uncertain Risks and Benefits in Human Subjects Research.” Science, Technology, and Human Values 34 (3): 337-364.
Abstract: Composed of scientific and technical experts and lay members, thousands of research ethics committees-- Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) in the US -- must identify and assess the potential risks to human research subjects, and balance those risks against the potential benefits of the research. IRBs handle risk and its uncertainty by adopting a version of the precautionary principle. To assess scientific merit, IRBs employ a tacit ?sanguinity principle,? which treats uncertainty as inevitable, even desirable, in scientific progress. In balancing human subjects risks and scientific benefits, IRBs use uncertainty as a boundary ordering device that allows the mediation of the science and ethics aspects of their decisions. One effect is the entangling of methodological and ethical review. Some have suggested these should be more clearly separated, but decisions by research ethics committees depend in part on the negotiating space created by incommensurable approaches to uncertainty.
Barke, Richard P., and Kristie C. Gurley. Forthcoming. Posterity.
Abstract: This book, co-authored with Kristie Champlin Gurley, examines the political and policy challenges in considering the interests of future generations. We demonstrate that the interests of future generations have shaped our actions usually only indirectly, in areas such as infrastructure, education, basic research, and environmental preservation. Uncertainties about the future and lack of representation of its interests have stymied attempts to address deep future policy issues in systematic ways. Economists, ethicists, and planners have wrestled with long-term issues, generally within constrained domains (especially environmental policy), but we show how the efforts in each of these fields, while useful, have fallen short. We offer several paths forward, including an innovative theoretical approach for understanding policy trajectories from the past and through the present into the future.

Substantive Focus:
Governance PRIMARY
Science and Technology Policy SECONDARY

Theoretical Focus:
Policy History SECONDARY
Policy Process Theory PRIMARY