Knowledge kills action – Why principles should play a limited role in policy making

This essay argues that principles should play a limited role in policy making. It first illustrates the dilemma of timely action in the face of uncertain unintended consequences. It then introduces the precautionary and proactionary principles as different alignments of knowledge and action within the policymaking process. The essay next considers a cynical and a hopeful reading of the role of these principles in public policy debates. We argue that the two principles, despite initial appearances, are not all that different when it comes to formulating public policy. We also suggest that allowing principles to determine our actions undermines the sense of autonomy necessary for true action.

Altmetrics for “What Is Interdisciplinary Communication?”

Here is a link to the Altmetric Report for my recently published article “What Is Interdisciplinary Communication? Reflections on the Very Idea of Disciplinary Integration,” Synthese 190 (11): 1865-1879. DOI:10.1007/s11229-012-0179-7. There is also a preprint of the article available here.

Highlights of the Altmetric Report:

Compared to all articles in Synthese

So far Altmetric has tracked 78 articles from this journal. They typically receive a little less attention than average, with a mean score of 2.7 vs the global average of 3.6. This article has done particularly well, scoring higher than 99% of its peers. It’s actually the highest scoring article in this journal that we’ve seen so far.

In the
99%ile
Ranks
1st
All articles of a similar age

Older articles will score higher simply because they’ve had more time to accumulate mentions. To account for age we can compare this score to the 63,346 tracked articles that were published within six weeks on either side of this one in any journal. This article has done particularly well, scoring higher than 94% of its contemporaries.

In the
94%ile
Other articles of a similar age in Synthese

We’re also able to compare this article to 7 articles from the same journal and published within six weeks on either side of this one. This article has scored higher than all of them.

In the
99%ile
Ranks
1st
All articles

More generally, Altmetric has tracked 1,275,993 articles across all journals so far. Compared to these this article has done particularly well and is in the 96th percentile: it’s in the top 5% of all articles ever tracked by Altmetric.

In the
96%ile

Percentiles and ranks can obviously change with new publications. I also wonder whether one’s Altmetric score is not actually more a measure of one’s social media influence than it is a measure of the buzz surrounding an article — or maybe the two reduce to the same thing. But I sure like the sound of a number 1 ranking!