Silvio Funtowicz

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Silvio Oscar Funtowicz
Spring 2016
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Era20th-century philosophy
RegionWestern Philosophy
Main interests
Philosophy of science
Notable ideas
Post-normal science
Knowledge Assessment

Silvio O. Funtowicz is a philosopher of science active in the field of science and technology studies. He created the NUSAP, a notational system for characterising uncertainty and quality in quantitative expressions, and together with Jerome R. Ravetz he introduced the concept of post-normal science. He is currently a guest researcher at the Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities (SVT), University of Bergen (Norway).


Silvio Funtowicz began his career teaching mathematics, logic and research methodology in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He left Argentina during the military dictatorship, and moved to England where, during the 1980s he was a Research Fellow at the University of Leeds, where started his cooperation with Jerome Ravetz.[1] Until his retirement in 2011 he was a scientific officer at the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (EC-JRC). In 2012 he became a professor at the Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities (SVT) at the University of Bergen, Norway, and since 2021 he has been a guest researcher there.


Silvio Funtowicz' work with Jerome R. Ravetz Uncertainty and Quality in Science for Policy[2] started a series of reflections on the quality of science used for policy, mostly in connection with environmental and technological risks and policy-related research, introducing NUSAP a notational system for the management and communication of uncertainty in science for policy. NUSAP's applications to different settings were spearheaded in the Netherlands by Jeroen van der Sluijs et al. 2005.[3] Based on this ground work the concept of post-normal science was introduced in a series of papers published in the early nineties.[4][5][6][7][8][9]

The article ‘Science for the post-normal age’[6] is presently the most cited[10] paper of the journal Futures. Another paper of note is 'The worth of a songbird:ecological economics as a post-normal science'[11] in Ecological Economics.

Today post-normal science (PNS) is intended as applicable to most instances where the use of evidence is contested due to different norms and values. For Peter Gluckman (2014), chief science advisor to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, post-normal science approaches are today appropriate for a host of problems including “eradication of exogenous pests […], offshore oil prospecting, legalization of recreational psychotropic drugs, water quality, family violence, obesity, teenage morbidity and suicide, the ageing population, the prioritization of early-childhood education, reduction of agricultural greenhouse gases, and balancing economic growth and environmental sustainability”.[12]

For Carrozza [9] PNS can be “framed in terms of a call for the ‘democratization of expertise’”, and as a “reaction against long-term trends of ‘scientization’ of politics—the tendency towards assigning to experts a critical role in policymaking while marginalizing laypeople”.

Funtowicz’ most recent work – with Roger Strand - has touched upon the issue of agency at times of change, arguing that a risk centred vision based on prediction and control in front of global and emerging threats should be replaced by one based on commitment: “rather than believing that contemporary global challenges will be sufficiently met by being responsible under risk, we will ask how to stay committed in times of change.” [13] Together with Ângela Guimarães Pereira he curated a volume for Oxford University Press ‘Science for Policy: New Challenges, New Opportunities’,[14] and another with Routledge on the End of the Cartesian Dream[15] which represent an important collective effort gathering three generation of scholars active in the field of PNS, followed a year later by a multi-authors book by the same community on the reproducibility and quality control crisis of science.[16] Together with Andrea Saltelli and others he developed the concept of sensitivity auditing, an extension of sensitivity analysis for statistical and mathematical models used as input to policy design and appraisal.[17] He has authored with Alice Benessia a series of works on innovations and technoscience. These are critical essays on what it means for a society to be ‘smart’ and ‘sustainable’.[18][19] With Jerome R. Ravetz he recently contributed two original voices to the Encyclopaedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences (Oxford) on ‘Peer Review and Quality Control’ and on ‘New Forms of Science.[20][21] Since the nineties he has worked with Bruna De Marchi and others on risk governance and public participation.[22][23]

In the 1990s, Silvio Funtowicz collaborated with the late James J. Kay and other members of what some have called the "Dirk Gently Gang"[24] (including Mario Giampietro[25] and David Waltner-Toews) on the Ecosystem Approach.[26] This work, linking complexity theory, thermodynamics, and post-normal science, explored implications of this "new science" for environmental management and human well-being. Another scholar Silvio Funtowicz cooperates with is Martin O’Connor.[27] His most recent work focuses on the crisis in the quality control of science,[28] its impact on science's social functions,[29] the possible flaring of old and new science wars,[30] and the COVID-19 pandemic. [31]


  • Funtowicz, Silvio O.; Ravetz, Jerome R. (1990). Uncertainty and Quality in Science for Policy. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7923-0799-0.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Gooday, G. (2006). History and philosophy of science at Leeds. Notes and Records Royal Society, 60, 183–192.
  2. ^ Funtowicz, S. and Ravetz, J., 1990. Uncertainty and Quality in Science for Policy. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  3. ^ van der Sluijs, J., Craye, M., Funtowicz, S., Kloprogge, P., Ravetz, J., and Risbey, J. (2005) Combining Quantitative and Qualitative Measures of Uncertainty in Model based Environmental Assessment: the NUSAP System, Risk Analysis, 25 (2). p. 481-492.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ a b Funtowicz, S. and Ravetz, J., 1993. "Science for the post-normal age", Futures, 31(7): 735-755.
  7. ^ Weingart, P. From "Finalization" to "Mode 2": old wine in new bottles?. Social Science Information 36 (4), 1997. Pp. 591-613.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ a b 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. doi:10.1080/1523908x.2014.914894. S2CID 144368996.
  10. ^ Web page from Scholar Google with number of citations
  11. ^ Funtowicz, S. O., & Ravetz, J. R. (1994). "The worth of a songbird: ecological economics as a post-normal science". Ecological Economics. 10 (3): 197–207. CiteSeerX doi:10.1016/0921-8009(94)90108-2.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ Gluckman, P., 2014, Policy: The art of science advice to government, Nature, 507, 163–165.
  13. ^ Silvio Funtowicz and Roger Strand, 2011, Change and commitment: beyond risk and responsibility, Journal of Risk Research, 1–9.
  14. ^ Guimarães Pereira, Â. and Funtowicz, S. (eds.), 2009. Science for Policy: New Challenges, New Opportunities, Oxford University Press.
  15. ^ Guimarães Pereira, Â. and Funtowicz, S. (eds.), 2015. Science, Philosophy and Sustainability: The end of the Cartesian dream. Routledge series Explorations in Sustainability and Governance. New York: Routledge.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ Saltelli A, Guimarães Pereira A, van der Sluijs JP & Funtowicz S 2013, 'What do I make of your Latinorum? Sensitivity auditing of mathematical modelling’, International Journal of Foresight and Innovation Policy, vol. 9, no. 2-4, pp. 213–234.
  18. ^ Benessia A. and Funtowicz S. (2015), Sustainability and technoscience: what do we want to sustain and for whom? The International Journal of Sustainable Development Special Issue: In the Name of Sustainability / 18 (4):329-348.
  19. ^ Benessia A. and Funtowicz S., Never late, never lost and never unprepared (2016), In: Benessia A., Funtowicz S., Guimarães Pereira Â., Ravetz J., Saltelli A., Strand R. and van der Sluijs J.P. / The Rightful Place of Science: Science of the Verge / Tempe AZ / Consortium for Science Policy and Outcomes / pp. 71-114 / ISBN 0692596380
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ De Marchi, B.; Funtowicz, S.; Guimarães Pereira, Â. (2001). "From the Right to Be Informed to the Right to Participate: Responding to the Evolution of the European Legislation with ICT". International Journal of Environment and Pollution. 15 (1): 1–21. doi:10.1504/ijep.2001.000588.
  23. ^ De Marchi B., Funtowicz S., Ravetz J.R. (1996) "Seveso a paradoxical classic disaster" in J.K. Mitchell (ed.) The Long Road to Recovery: Community Responses to Industrial Disaster, United Nations University Press, Tokyo, New York, Paris, pp. 86-120.
  24. ^ Link to "Dirk Gently Gang"
  25. ^ Home page of Mario Giampietro
  26. ^ David Waltner-Toews, James J. Kay, Nina-Marie E. Lister, Eds., 2008, The Ecosystem Approach: Complexity, Uncertainty, and Managing for Sustainability (Complexity in Ecological Systems), Columbia.
  27. ^ Home page of Martin O’Connor
  28. ^ Saltelli, Andrea; Funtowicz, Silvio (2017). "What is science's crisis really about?". Futures. 91: 5–11. doi:10.1016/j.futures.2017.05.010.
  29. ^ Andrea Saltelli, Silvio Funtowicz, "Science cannot solve these problems alone because it helped to create them in the first place", The Guardian, July 2016
  30. ^ Andrea Saltelli, Silvio Funtowicz, Science wars in the age of Donald Trump, The Conversation, November 2016.
  31. ^ Postnormal pandemics: Why COVID-19 requires a new approach to science, guest post on STEPS by David Waltner-Toews, Annibale Biggeri, Bruna De Marchi, Silvio Funtowicz, Mario Giampietro, Martin O’Connor, Jerome R. Ravetz, Andrea Saltelli and Jeroen P. van der Sluijs.