Dr. Durant's research focuses on disputes between experts and publics, and he has published widely on controversies involving nuclear waste management, nuclear power, public policy about energy options, and more recently is investigating climate change policy-making. Dr. Durant's general approach asks questions about the different contributions made and roles played by experts and lay publics. In democracies, we face a challenge. Concerns about procedural legitimacy result in demands for public involvement in policy-making about social issues involving expert knowledge. But procedure can only go so far, because in a democracy we are also concerned to get it right, so there is a reciprocal demand for expert input. It is too simple to say we just have to balance the two, because expert and lay public input are often about different questions, different weightings to what kinds of errors to be concerned about, and even different assessments of what factors deserve most attention in trying to figure out what is right. Instead, we have to make tough choices about who to listen to, and that might mean we have to think through exactly where expert and lay public input is best directed.
Recent publications include:
- Durant, D. ‘The Undead Linear Model of Expertise.’ In Michael Heazle and John Kane (eds.), Policy Legitimacy, Science and Political Authority: Knowledge and action in liberal democracies (NY: Routledge Press, 2016), 17-38.
- Durant, D. ‘Simulative Politics: the case of nuclear waste disposal.’ Environmental Politics
24(3) 2015: 442-460.
- Durant, D. 'Collins on Experts: Gangnam Style STS'. Metascience
(2015) DOI 10.1007/s11016-015-0025-x
Society for Social Studies of Science.
Member 2001 -
My current research focuses on the problem of combining expert and lay public input in democratic decision-making processes. I take the view that each has a place and neither should swamp the other, a view obviously at odds with technocratic 'leave it to the experts' solutions but also at odds with views that champion public input without wondering whether politics can go too far. Put differently, how do we value expertise even when we know it is not perfect, and how do we value public input, without slipping into the view that all input is equal (which quickly implies there is no such thing as expertise)? In the past I have drawn upon cases including nuclear waste disposal and energy policy about nuclear power to explore such themes, and more recently I have begin investigating climate change policy. But there are many cases, many policy-relevant domains where expert knowledge and public social concerns intersect, that involve the themes noted above, and I can thus supervise quite divergent empirical areas of interest. I also have much experience analysing public inquiries, science and technology communication endeavours, and general social debates about technical innovation.