Projects of ‘openness’ are today ubiquitous – think open government and open science – and promise to strengthen governance, science and much else. Yet, in practice, opening up is rarely straightforward. This chapter considers some of the curious alliances, novel tensions and surprising paradoxes that contemporary practices of openness entail. To do so, it explores two controversies: Climategate and The Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act of 2017. These cases show that the grounds on which science for governance works are shifting; and how hard it can be to defend established scientific practices, which are increasingly cast as secretive, suspect and morally untenable. While Climategate and the HONEST Act are often taken as exemplars of a populist, right-wing assault on science, this chapter suggests that the recent push for openness is itself contributing substantially to the challenges science for governance faces today. Stories about a post-truth, anti-science Right that operates in the shadows, and a truthful, pro-science Left that does not, have limited explanatory value.

This chapter was first outlined at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton; the final version will appear in Words and Worlds: A Lexicon for Dark Times (eds) Veena Das and Didier Fassin. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2020.