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Browsing by Subject "ignorance"

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  • Kalliokoski, Laura (2021)
    During the Covid-19 pandemic in Finland, there was a debate about the usefulness of face masks in suppressing the epidemic. Lack of scientific knowledge was emphasised in the debate, and the participants sought to define the role of science in decision-making. In this thesis, the ways in which ignorance and uncertainty were discussed and used to define the boundaries of science in the Finnish face mask debate are studied. In the theoretical part of the thesis, the meanings of ignorance and uncertainty are clarified and the boundary-work of science as well as uncertainty as a boundary-ordering device are discussed. The politicisation of non-knowledge and the characteristics of policy-relevant science are also examined. In the empirical part, the knowledge/non-knowledge claims of the Finnish experts and decision-makers who participated in the face mask debate are analysed. The data consists of 99 quotations collected from news articles published from March 1 to October 31, 2020. Qualitative frame analysis is employed to examine the forms of knowledge and ignorance along with the boundary-ordering devices used in the debate. The results show that experts working at the science-policy boundary highlighted uncertainty and ignorance most often. They also used uncertainty as a boundary-ordering device the most, although overall, this came up very rarely in the debate. The main discrepancy was between the assessments of different expert bodies, as research scientists did not usually mention the underlying uncertainties of scientific findings. Different actors had different approaches towards knowledge and ignorance, reflecting differences in epistemic cultures. Regulatory science and academic science have different criteria for assessing the credibility of knowledge. Moreover, not all ignorance and uncertainty in decision-making can be reduced with scientific methods. Therefore, more resilient decision-making processes should be developed, in which ignorance and limitations of scientific knowledge are identified and embedded in the decisions.