Jerome Ravetz

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Jerome Raymond Ravetz
Born(1929-06-10)June 10, 1929
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge (England) and Swarthmore College (Philadelphia)
Era20th-century philosophy
RegionWestern Philosophy
Main interests
Philosophy of science
Notable ideas
Post-normal science

Jerome (Jerry) Ravetz is a philosopher of science. He is best known for his books analysing scientific knowledge from a social and ethical perspective, focussing on issues of quality. He is the co-author (with Silvio Funtowicz) of the NUSAP notational system and of Post-normal science. He is currently an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society, University of Oxford.


Ravetz was born in Philadelphia; his grandfather was a Russian-Jewish immigrant and his father a truck driver and trade union organiser. He attended Central High School and Swarthmore College. He came to England in 1950 on a Fulbright Scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he studied for a Ph.D. in Pure Mathematics under the supervision of A.S. Besicovitch. In 1955 his passport was taken away, as part of the wave of McCarthyism; it was returned in 1958 and in 1961 he became a British citizen. He taught mathematics at the University of Pennsylvania and then at Durham University. In 1957 he moved to Leeds University to join Stephen Toulmin in the establishment of a centre in the History and Philosophy of Science. He stayed at Leeds, eventually becoming a Reader, until taking early retirement in 1983. Since then he has been an independent scholar.

He has visited at Utrecht University, Harvard University, the Institute for Advanced Study, the University of California, Santa Cruz, Fudan University (Shanghai), the University of Texas at Dallas, the Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Luxembourg. Over the years he has worked closely with colleagues at the European Commission Joint Research Centre, Ispra, Italy.

His earliest research, after mathematics, was in the history of the mathematical sciences, with books on Copernicus and Fourier. In 1971, he published the influential book Scientific Knowledge and Its Social Problems. This went through several English language editions, plus German and Japanese translations, and was republished in 1996. This book raises issues of uncertainty and ethics in the social practice of science. It was an early attempt to recast the philosophy of science for the conditions of 'industrialised science' and to shift the philosophy of science from epistemology to the social and ethical aspects of science. In it he proposed a 'critical science' for a new version of the idealism that had characterised science in the pre-industrial age.

In the years around 1970 he was an active member of the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science.

From 1973 to 1976 he was Executive Secretary of the Council for Science and Society in London, whose founder was the law reformer Paul Sieghart. He drafted its report on 'The Acceptability of Risks'. From 1977 to 1978, he was a member of the Genetic Manipulation Advisory Group, regulating research in recombinant DNA. With Silvio Funtowicz he created the NUSAP notational system, described in their book Uncertainty and quality in science for policy (Reidel 1990). This was the stimulus for the development of the 'Guidance' for managing uncertainty, at the Netherlands Environment Agency.[1] They also created the theory of Post-normal science, which applies when 'Facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent.'[2][3][4][5][6][7] A collection of his essays, The merger of knowledge with power: essays in critical science was also published in 1990. With Zia Sardar he co-authored Cyberfutures: Culture and Politics on the Information Superhighway in 1996.[2] His most recent book is The No nonsense guide to science (New Internationalist 2006). His research continues in two main directions: new trends in the social practice of science; and new approaches to the management of uncertainty. On the former, he has co-authored (with Silvio Funtowicz) chapters on 'Science, New Forms of' and 'Peer Review and Quality Control' for the International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Sciences (2015).[8][9] On the latter he is concerned with the analysis of ignorance and the representation and manipulation of quantitative information where there is 'not even one significant digit'. He has also recently written on the quality control crisis of science.[10][11]

He is currently an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society at the University of Oxford. He was interviewed by the Great Transition Initiative's blog on June 2016.


"The activity of modern natural science has transformed our knowledge and control of the world about us; but in the process it has also transformed itself; and it has created problems that natural science alone cannot solve". Scientific Knowledge and its Social Problems, Oxford 1971, p. 9.

"Wherever there's a system, there's a racket to beat it." Ibidem, p. 295.


'Crisis, what crisis in Science?' Seminar at the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society, Oxford University, July 30, 2018, hosted by Jerome R. Ravetz with Philip Mirowski and Andrea Saltelli.

Forthcoming Event INSIS Workshop: 'Science-Post-Normal Perspectives: Jerry Ravetz at 90', organised by the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society, Oxford University, . 31 May 2019, 09:30 - 18:00.


Reflections on ‘informed critical resistance, reform and the making of futures’, Post-Normal Science Symposium in Barcelona: Address by Jerome Ravetz, 15 November 2018.


  • Ravetz, Jerome R. (1979). Scientific knowledge and its social problems. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press. ISBN 0-19-519721-6.
  • Ravetz, Jerome R. (1990). The merger of knowledge with power: essays in critical science. London [England]: Mansell. ISBN 0-7201-2021-7.
  • Funtowicz, Silvio O.; Ravetz, Jerome R. (1990). Uncertainty and quality in science for policy. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers. ISBN 0-7923-0799-2.
  • Ravetz, Jerome R.; Sardar, Ziauddin (1996). Cyberfutures: culture and politics on the information superhighway. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 0-8147-8058-X.
  • Ravetz, Jerome R. (2005). The No nonsense guide to science. Oxford: New Internationalist.
  • Ravetz, Jerome R. (1965). Astronomy and cosmology in the achievement of Nicolaus Copernicus. Wrocław, Poland: Zakład Narodowy im. Ossolińskich.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A.C. Petersen, P.H.M. Janssen, J.P. van der Sluijs, J.S. Risbey, J.R. Ravetz, J.A. Wardekker, H. Martinson Hughes, Guidance for Uncertainty Assessment and Communication, 2nd Edition, PBL, 2013.
  2. ^ Funtowicz, S. O. and Ravetz, J. R., 1991. "A New Scientific Methodology for Global Environmental Issues", in Costanza, R. (ed.), Ecological Economics: The Science and Management of Sustainability: 137–152. New York: Columbia University Press.
  3. ^ Funtowicz, S. O. and Ravetz, J. R., 1992. "Three types of risk assessment and the emergence of postnormal science", in Krimsky, S. and Golding, D. (eds.), Social theories of risk: 251–273. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood.
  4. ^ Funtowicz, S. and Ravetz, J., 1993. "Science for the post-normal age", Futures, 31(7): 735-755.
  5. ^ Weingart, P. From "Finalization" to "Mode 2": old wine in new bottles?. Social Science Information 36 (4), 1997. Pp. 591-613.
  6. ^ Turnpenny, J., Jones, M., & Lorenzoni, I. (2010). Where now for post-normal science? A critical review of its development, definitions, and uses. Science, Technology & Human Values, 0162243910385789.
  7. ^ Carrozza, C. (2015). Democratizing Expertise and Environmental Governance: Different Approaches to the Politics of Science and their Relevance for Policy Analysis. Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, 17(1), 108-126.
  8. ^ Funtowicz, S. and Ravetz, J. R., 2015. "Peer Review and Quality Control", Wright, J. D., (ed.), International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2nd edition. Oxford: Elsevier.
  9. ^ Ravetz, J. R. and Funtowicz, S. O., 2015. "Science, New Forms of", in Wright, J. D., (ed.), International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2nd edition, Vol. 21: 248–254. Oxford: Elsevier.
  10. ^ Benessia, A., Funtowicz, S., Giampietro, M., Guimarães Pereira, A., Ravetz, J., Saltelli, A., Strand, R., van der Sluijs, J., 2016. The Rightful Place of Science: Science on the Verge. The Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes at Arizona State University.
  11. ^ Ravetz, J., 2016, How should we treat science’s growing pains? The Guardian, June 8th 2016.

External links[edit]