University of Tasmania
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Science narratives : the construction, mobilisation and validation of Hydro Tasmania's case for Basslink.

posted on 2023-05-26, 07:15 authored by Duncan, R
The central focus of this thesis is the role of narratives in the construction, mobilisation and validation of scientific knowledge claims. With an epistemological commitment to constructivism, which conceptualises scientific knowledge as the product of a process (and not something revealed), the regulatory domain of impact assessment in respect of Basslink, a 350 kilometre power cable that will link Tasmania to the Australian mainland across Bass Strait, has been used as a case study to undertake the task of tracing the translations that intervened between assessment process inputs and outputs - contributions deemed 'scientific' and 'independent' by the project's proponents and supporters. Specifically, the knowledge claims tendered by Hydro Tasmania, Tasmania's hydro-electricity generator, in respect of predicted environmental impacts on the Gordon River arising from changes to river flows required to generate and export hydro-electricity across Basslink, have been examined. The central epistemological question has been how, given the extent of the contingencies and indeterminacies in predictive economic and environmental modelling inputs and outputs used to substantiate the impacts and benefits of Basslink (which have been detailed in the thesis), was Hydro Tasmania's case in support of the development made durable and, thereby, legitimated by the decision-making body charged with the task of assessing the project. This study follows Hydro Tasmania's knowledge claims in respect of the Gordon River impacts through the process and demonstrates the pivotal role of narratives and the extent to which they can bridge empirical gaps, explain and obscure inconsistencies, erase unexpected model outputs, contextualise findings and mobilise ontological claims. The tension between the fulfilment of disclosure requirements upon proponents by means of 'scientific facts'and the extent to which issues such as trust, accountability and past track record, bear upon people's uptake of these 'facts' is also examined in this work.


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