Important considerations for science advising for policymakers

2 01 2011

Here is what Robert Schenkel, the Directorate- General of the Joint Research Centre, European Commission wrote recently in Science about five important considerations that science advisor much take into account when considering future policy-making. I especially like points four and five.

“First, science is at the heart of invention and the drive to make our lives better in a globalized world. Legislative answers founded on scientific evidence increasingly shape the world we live in.

Second, science should not claim to have “the” answer. Scientists from different disciplines should not be afraid to engage in a “contradictory evidence-based mode” of discussion, challenging each other with conflicting facts and uncertainties to arrive at a better-informed, yet less narrow and more harmonized view. This mode has advantages above the classical peer-review used by scientific journals and is better suited for a proper treatment of multidimensional topics, even if it may result in “gray” literature only.

Third, industry and other core interest groups have natural vested interests in policy-making. Scientific outcomes are often better if they participate in the process.

Fourth, public opinion is crucial and public debate is instrumental in forming it. Scientists must speak in a language that the public understands, engaging in real dialog and moving away from the often arrogant “ex cathedra” presentation style.

Finally, robust scientific advice has to be multidimensional and inclusive. It must consider economic, social, environmental, ethical, and scientific aspects, while indicating how best to deal with uncertainties.”