Responsibility, ethics, the relationship between science and society, communication in situations of uncertainty and complexity, transdisciplinary research, openness in science. These are some of the themes addressed by “Scienziati in affanno?” (Scientists under pressure?), a new series published by CNR Edizioni, created and edited by three scientists at the National Research Council (CNR): Alba L’Astorina, Cristina Mangia and Alessandra Pugnetti.
The initiative kicks off with the publication of the first volume titled “Scienza, politica e società. L’approccio della scienza post-normale” (Science, politics and society. The post-normal science approach), edited by Alba L’Astorina, Institute for Electromagnetic Sensing of the Environment (IREA-CNR), and Cristina Mangia, Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate (ISAC-CNR).
“The series,” the three editors write in the preface, “was conceived as a response to the concern that we feel primarily as a physical rather than an intellectual experience, at a time in which ecological, cultural and social changes on our planet are many and intense; a concern that seems to be running through the scientific world, which finds itself more and more in the position of having to abandon long-standing and safe roles in order to pursue new objectives that are more closely related to the serious and pressing problems of our time.”
In this context, the CNR’s editorial initiative aims to offer tools that can help read and understand the ongoing changes to overcome the sense of “pressure” that we feel today.
The Scientific Committee, made up of scientists from different disciplinary backgrounds and working in different fields, both inside and outside the academic world, emphasizes the social, cultural and political relevance of the topics that the new series intends to address.
It is no coincidence that the authors decided to launch the series with a volume entirely dedicated to the relationship between science, politics and society and to the post-normal science (PNS) approach proposed by Silvio Funtowicz and Jerome Ravetz in the 1990s. This approach includes the uncertainty of natural systems, a plurality of perspectives, both inside and outside science, and the need to make use of all available knowledge, not only scientific knowledge, in the management of the risk that increasingly characterizes contemporary societies.
PNS is at the same time a body of theories that reflect on the role of science in decision-making contexts and a community of practice that demonstrates how it is possible to do research by balancing attention to the quality of the data produced with attention to the quality of the processes and relationships that are established between those who collaborate in solving a problem.
The volume, which opens with prefaces by the President of the CNR, Maria Chiara Carrozza, and by the director of the CNR-DSSTTA, Fabio Trincardi and the director of the CNR-DSU, Roberto Palaia, is introduced by the reflections of the two developers of PNS on the present and future of this approach. The volume contains 37 essays, many of which by CNR authors, dealing, in particular, with the implementation of the PNS principles in the Italian context andin some European institutions and with the interaction between science, society and politics.