Scientists Vs Politicians – Who Should Know What?

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Image courtesy of Nature News & Comment

 

Many scientists, including myself, take an interest in science policy, but in general there can be quite a rift between those carrying out scientific research and those creating the laws and legislation in our country and around the globe. The Royal Society of Chemistry even offer a course in writing science policy, found here, in order to encourage scientists to bridge the gap between research and policy.

This article on the Nature News & Comment website presents the authors’ tips for interpreting scientific claims, and is aimed at politicians, civil servants, policy advisers and journalists. It is their opinion that many of those involved in making decisions in parliament are quite scientifically ignorant and, without sufficient skills in interpreting scientific discoveries and claims, may unintentionally make bad or ill-informed decisions.

In an ideal world, politicians would learn the scientific background to all of their policies, but this is an impossible task, considering the immense workload and time constraints they already have to live by. A far more achievable task, the authors believe, would be for them to understand the twenty concepts of scientific research laid out in this article, as they encourage policy-makers to be more critical of what claims they are being fed. Furthermore, they allow non-scientists to understand the processes leading up to scientific claims a little better, and would hopefully allow for better informed decisions in parliament.

In response, Chris Tyler from The Guardian wrote this article with his top 20 things scientists need to know about policy-making. I think it’s both interesting and useful to see arguments from both sides of the coin. Chris notes that too often it is the politicians which are blamed for the gap between the two sides, and thinks many scientists also have much to learn in this area.Indeed, he states in his first comment that policy making isn’t nearly as straightforward as it is made out to be by scientists, and that people should consider how much complexity there is to the process.

This is a great opportunity to see a very significant aspect of science from two very different angle, whilst giving us an insight into the way decisions are made on matters which impact us which we might not have considered before.

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