Inderscience Publishers

Natural scientific complexity from a social scientific perspective: environment and health research and policymaking in Flanders (Belgium)

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This paper discusses the relevance of a complexity approach to environment and health research. The approach is characterised by modesty, respect and transparency with regard to complexity of real world problems, and openness to a diversity of knowledge and opinion. The approach criticises the traditional interpretation of objectivity and emphasises the inter-subjectivist nature of science. The Centre of Expertise for Environment and Health (CEH), working directly for the Flemish government, is a good example of the relevance of the approach in environment and health research. It also exemplifies the need for a social science contribution. Moreover, it illustrates the complicatedness of such an endeavour in practice. The approach will not make work easier in all respects, but it will enhance the quality by respecting the complexity of real world problems.

Keywords: complexity, environment research, health research, objectivity, social sciences, policy relevant research, Belgium, Flanders, risk management, environmental health risks

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