EEA Late Lessons From Early Warnings II: Science Precaution, Innovation

Report from the European Environment Agency, No 1 2013

This report was prepared by the European Environmental Agency, and was initiated by David Gee.

From the Preface on page 6 : “The scientific elites have also been slowly losing public support. This is in part because of the growing number of instances of misplaced certainty about the absence of harm, which has delayed preventative actions to reduce risks to human health, despite evidence to the contrary”


The report has been designed, structured and written in order to, inter alia, help politicians, policymakers and the public to:

i understand better the ways in which scientific knowledge is financed, created, evaluated, ignored, used and misused in taking timely and precautionary decisions about how to reduce harms, whilst stimulating benign innovations and generating useful employment;

ii learn from some very expensive ‘mistakes’ in the past so as to help societies make fewer mistakes now, and in the future, especially with some of the relatively new, largely unknown, yet already widespread technologies like nanotechnology and mobile phones;

iii be aware of less visible, important factors such as the skewed ways in which the costs of actions and inactions for hazardous technologies have been estimated, and the role that some businesses have played in ignoring early warnings and in manufacturing doubt about the science supporting such warnings;

iv consider how the law, or administrative arrangements, could be better used to deliver justice, to those people (and ecosystems) that have been, or could be, harmed by poorly designed, or badly deployed, innovations;

v explore how best to engage the public in helping to make strategic choices over innovations, and their technological and social pathways, as well as their involvement in ecosystems management and in long term monitoring through citizen science.
Download the EEA Report →