Science - policy interactions: unanswered questions

The need for (more) effective knowledge brokering between scientific researchers and policy makers is widely accepted but remains a huge challenge. There are many issues which complicate the knowledge brokering process, including differences in jargon, time scales, and need for detail or certainty.  In addition, scientists often struggle to accept that policy makers and politicians sometimes give more weight during decision making to other evidence than scientific data, such as economic impact or public opinion. 

A recent paper, based on discussions between representatives from government, NGOs, academia and industry on this issue, has identified 40 basic questions about science-policy interactions which generally remain unanswered. The answers to these could help to optimise the knowledge brokering process.

The paper entitled "A collaboratively-derived science-policy research agenda" by Sutherland et al. (2012)  has been published on line and is freely available via open access at PloS ONE.

Some of the unanswered questions listed in the paper may be able to be partly answered by the current EU Framework-7 FOODLINKS project. These include:

  • How do scientists and policy makers recognise and convey the limitations of scientific advice?
  • What are the most effective mechanisms for identifying the evidence required to inform policy-making on new and emerging problems?
  • How can the effectiveness of knowledge-brokering be assessed?
  • Can distinction be made in scientific advice between facts and values?
  • What are the implications for science-policy relations of novel methods of engagement (such as social media)?




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