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Nobel laureate wants more science in policy

Australian Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt has called for more science in policy in a speech in Canberra last week.

Schmidt, a physicist at the Australian National University, told a gathering of scientists and policymakers that science should be given more weight in policy decisions.

Speaking at the Science Meets Parliament forum, he called for politicians to take account of science, even though it does not hold the absolute certainty he claimed politicians would like.

“Just because we do not have absolute certainty does not mean we do not have useful information; almost everything that contributes to our current level of prosperity is built up using the scientific method – and it is that power that makes science, and ultimately evidenced-based policy, so powerful”, Schmidt said.

He also touched on a debate over the operation of a ‘super trawler’ that effectively has been banned by the government for at least one year. The move has damaged public confidence in the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, he warned.

“Australia’s Fisheries Management has been so good because it hasn’t been politicised. So let’s do whatever it takes to restore confidence in the processes of the authority as soon as possible, and get management of our fisheries back out of politics”, he urged.

For their part, scientists must stay objective when offering advice to policymakers, he added: “It is not our job to ensure that politicians act the way we want on our evidence, but rather fully inform them.”