Science advice is critical to democracy and our way of life

Science advice is critical to democracy and our way of life

Optimising the relationship between scientists and policymakers, publishing a code of good practice on science advice and involving stakeholders more effectively are all ways of strengthening science advice for policy, according to the panel at a European Commission meeting in Brussels on 26th September.


Panel discussion on science for policy

Three recently-published reports on science advice were the focal point for the panel discussion, part of the Policy Conference at the European Research and Innovation Days (24th-26th September).

The scientific opinion by the EU Chief Scientific Advisors are presented to the public Left to right: Dr Piotr Kwiecinski, Louise Edwards, Professor Pearl Dykstra, Professor Ortwin Renn, Dr David Mair, and Professor Sierd Cloetingh
The three reports are presented to the public. Left to right: Dr Piotr Kwiecinski, Louise Edwards, Professor Pearl Dykstra, Professor Ortwin Renn, Dr David Mair, and Professor Sierd Cloetingh

The reports were presented by Professor Pearl Dykstra (Deputy Chair, Group of Chief Scientific Advisors), Professor Ortwin Renn (SAPEA Working Group Chair) and Dr David Mair (Head of Unit, Joint Research Council).

Academia Europaea (AE) President, Professor Sierd Cloetingh, and Louise Edwards, Cardiff Hub Manager, represented SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies) at the panel discussion.

AE is the Lead Academy for the Making Sense of Science for Policy evidence review, conducted by SAPEA to inform the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors’ Scientific Opinion.

Key messages

Key messages that emerged from the panel discussion included:

1. Optimise relationships between scientists, policymakers and other stakeholders

2. Assure the quality of science and evidence, by conducted highly-structured reviews and investigating potential conflicts of interest. A code of practice for science advice is recommended.

3. Accept that scientific is only one form of information that policymakers take into account. At the same time, scientists can help policymakers understand a situation, generate policy options and set out the potential impacts of following such options

4. Take into account the values, emotions and behaviours of all stakeholders, including scientists. Acknowledge that there is no such thing as ‘neutral science’.

5. Communicate evidence clearly and simply, explaining degrees of uncertainty in the evidence base

Panellists agreed that the elements of a European science advice system have evolved well over the last three years and will continue to mature, through close cooperation.

The contribution of a strong science advice system to a well-functioning democratic society is clear but cannot be taken for granted.  We need to fight for it.  It is difficult to ‘sell’ the complexity of science over the easiness of ‘fake news’ but we need to design processes to meet that challenge.

The reports

Read the three reports here:

27th September 2019. For further information please contact Louise Edwards, Hub Manager EdwardsL31@cardiff.ac.uk
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