COVID-19 Science Policy, Experts, and Publics: Why Epistemic Democracy Matters in Ecological Crises


OMICS-A JOURNAL OF INTEGRATIVE BIOLOGY, vol.24, no.8, pp.479-482, 2020 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Review
  • Volume: 24 Issue: 8
  • Publication Date: 2020
  • Doi Number: 10.1089/omi.2020.0083
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, BIOSIS, CAB Abstracts, Chemical Abstracts Core, EMBASE, MEDLINE, Veterinary Science Database
  • Page Numbers: pp.479-482
  • Kocaeli University Affiliated: Yes


In times of planetary health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, a critically informed science and technology policy is crucial. In this overarching context, governments are faced with making rapid and high-stake decisions dictated by emergency that in a state of normalcy they would not, or could not pursue. Governments tend to gather, therefore, an incredible amount of unchecked power in times of fast-moving ecological crises that raises concerns about where the legitimacy of such excessive power comes from. Moreover, the elected politicians rely on the expert advice in a pandemic. This takes away democratic political authority from the sovereign people and instead places it on allegedly objective unelected experts. In contrast, experts have (1) a dubious reputation in predicting the future and (2) varying degrees of biases and self-interests, which make them susceptible, for instance, to "framing problems" in relation to the urgent public issues at stake. This article suggests new ways of thinking about COVID-19 technology policy, drawing from the field of political science and democratic theory. It examines the power-laden tensions between the political authority and the expert authority. Going forward, I highlight the brief history of epistemic democracy, taking into consideration that in advanced modern democracies, political decision making has to draw, in part, from expert knowledge, but without resulting in democratic deficits. The COVID-19 science and technology policy can usefully build on epistemic democracy while strengthening the science, society, and democracy nexus.