Science and technology policy

Science Advice

 

Science advice plays an increasing role in the formulation of policy. Governments require scientific evidence in a wide range of situations, from long-term policy development through to urgent crisis management. The most appropriate source and nature of scientific and technical advice depends upon its purpose. Consequently, many different processes have been developed for its production and delivery. This diversity is also a product of the different cultural contexts in which advice must operate.

Science advice has been subject to serious stresses in recent years. In the field of prediction and assessment of risks, a series of legal cases have raised concerns about adverse personal consequences of providing advice to governments– consequences that can extend to civil or even criminal liability. At the same time, the contribution of scientific advice on sensitive issues, relating to people’s health and safety or the environment, has stimulated heated societal debate. While many of these issues cross national borders and science itself is an international enterprise, cooperation between countries on scientific advice is inadequate.

science advice laboratory

Report

Scientific Advice for Policy Making: The Role and Responsibility of Expert Bodies and Individual Scientists 

Governments would benefit from agreeing common principles for developing and communicating scientific advice, both in crisis situations and for long-term policymaking, according to a new OECD report. In light of recent controversies around science advice, the report proposes a checklist for countries to follow to ensure science advisory processes are effective and trustworthy. Read the full press release.

Scientific Advice cover

Exec Summary in:
French ¦ Japanese

Drawing on the analysis of different advisory systems, their exposure to legal risks and the particular requirements of crisis situations, Scientific Advice for Policy Making identifies three key factors that are particularly important in determining the success or failure of a science advisory process:

  1. Have a clear remit, with defined roles and responsibilities for its various actors. 

  2. Involve the relevant actors – scientists, policy makers and other stakeholders, as necessary. 

  3. Produce advice that is sound, unbiased and legitimate. 

As governments and scientific bodies strive to improve mechanisms for the provision and communication of scientific advice, the report proposes the following:

  • Governments and responsible institutions should define clear and transparent guidelines and rules of procedure for their science advisory processes and mechanisms. 
  • Governments should establish mechanisms for ensuring appropriate and timely advice in crises. 
  • Governments should work with international organisations to ensure coherence between national and international scientific advisory mechanisms relating to complex global challenges.
  • Governments and responsible institutions should implement measures that build societal trust in science advice for policy making.

Next Steps

Scientific advice for policy making will be included for discussion at the upcoming OECD ministerial in Daejon, Korea, in October 2015. Depending on the outcome of discussions, the GSF might undertake further activity on science advice. This could lead to an international framework of principles and provide a foundation for improving international cooperation. Further work might also be appropriate on international coordination mechanisms in crisis situations (and/or longer–term global crises). The issues of public engagement and trust in science advisory processes may also merit further work from the OECD.

Contact

For further information, please contact Frédéric Sgard of the OECD Global Science Forum.

 

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