No one would argue, that there is no substitute for a deep knowledge of your chosen field of study. Subject matter experts constantly strive to become experts in scientific methods and typically hold an objectivist view of the world.
However, good consultants learn how to embrace their subjectivity by seeking to make sense of the phenomena under research. In many cases, it is not about data. Data is data. It cannot be made up. In the world of natural sciences, the collection and interpretation of the data will need to be suitably objective. However, it is the interpretation of how those findings interact with the Government legislation, policy, and guidelines is where good consultants stand out.
The regulator, taking a very idealistic view, puts into place policies and regulations which are inherently subjective. Phrases such as “significant impact” are commonplace in environmental legislation.
The extent to which the consultant can present a convincing interpretation of the chosen phenomenon will prevail over the subjective interpretation of the policy. Of course, the work and argument must be sufficiently robust in order to convince the assessor of the quality of the interpretation. This is markedly different from a bad and uninformed opinion.
Consultants must be very careful to ensure that the interpretation of the phenomena is based on knowledge and data. It is important that the validity of your sampling or surveying methodology cannot be called into question.
Government officers should also be careful to remain aware of the role they play in assessing such criteria. Officers should subjectively and pragmatically assess the project and be cautious to ensure that cognitive bias does not impact the process.