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Science Europe provides guidance on shaping policy

Association says science-for-policy activities should be based on values including transparency

Science Europe, the association of major research funding and performing organisations, has published guidance for how its members and similar organisations could better shape policymaking.

In the guide published on 4 April, the association says it is “grounded in the belief that effective policymaking benefits from science-informed contributions”.

This principle was strained by the growth of misinformation, fake news and post-truth politics, but was then reinforced by the need for science-informed responses to the Covid-19 pandemic, the guide points out.

Science Europe president, and chief executive of the Research Council of Norway, Mari Sundli Tveit, said: “In an era of unprecedented global societal challenges, the role of scientific research in informing policymakers has never been more critical.”

The guide comes in the context of the Council of the EU member state governments late last year adopting a stance of encouraging “the establishment of a ‘science-for-policy’ ecosystem to connect the scientific and policymaking communities in Europe”.

It is intended for institutions, rather than individual researchers.

Principles and values

According to the guide, science-for-policy activities should be seen as distinct from both research and policymaking themselves. Instead, it says, “science-for-policy activities have the objective to promote the research-policy dialogue”.

Such activities include co-designing research agendas with policymakers, providing useful evidence-based guidance for them, and hosting evidence dissemination events as well as training and knowledge exchange between policymakers and researchers.

Importantly, the guide says science-for-policy activities should not be “prescriptive”, but should provide “a rigorous synthesis” of relevant knowledge and an assessment of policy options and their implications. They should help policymakers consider the many factors that could affect their decisions.

Science Europe set out four principles and values to guide science-for-policy activities. These are: activities should have an explicit mandate from policymakers; should be carried out with quality, integrity and transparency; should have dedicated resources; and should be presented in a non-prescriptive way.

Within these principles, the association said advice should be presented by multidisciplinary panels, rather than individual researchers. It said that transparency requires clarity on the uncertainties of scientific evidence and any methodological shortcomings.

Long-term vision needed

The guide says that institutional strategies for science-for-policy activities require a long-term vision, should forge connections between policymakers and researchers, demand specific expertise, and must involve targeted communication.

Scientific trends should be monitored to ensure that advice is up to date, it says, and repositories of experts and data should be built up to facilitate access when needed.

Sundli Tveit said: “By serving as intermediaries and facilitators [of science-for-policy activities], our member organisations have the opportunity to catalyse transformative change, supporting the emerging approaches promoting the use of scientific outcomes for policy purposes such as mission-oriented research, and drive progress towards our shared goals.”