For many, open science and open government together strengthen science and democracy. Yet opening up is rarely straightforward. This chapter explores the curious alliances, novel tensions and surprising paradoxes that contemporary practices of openness entail. It dwells on two controversies in particular: Climategate and The Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act of 2017. These examples show that the grounds on which expertise and science for government work are shifting; and how difficult it can be to defend established scientific practices, which are increasingly cast as secretive, suspect and morally untenable. While pundits routinely take both examples as evidence of a populist, right-wing assault on science, the chapter argues that the recent push for openness and transparency itself contributes substantially to the challenges science for government faces. Familiar 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, 2021.