Science and policy-making

30/09/2020

The nationwide shortage of PPE for health care workers has been well documented. Reporting on this issue has been complicated by hospitals' imposition of gag orders on physicians and health care workers. There are harms that result from imposing these gag orders that go beyond the obvious harms to public and employee health and safety. Using Hirschman's ‘Exit, Voice, and Loyalty’ (1970) as a framework demonstrates that these orders represent a dangerous concentration of power in employer hands — health care workers are reduced to functionaries. Hirschman's argument, in part, is that organisations should seek to balance the availability of exit, voice, and loyalty for employees. Restricting employee options in morally untenable situations to exit only leads to direct and indirect harms. These gag orders are a pernicious practice, and bring with them long-term negative implications for employee morale, employee effectiveness, and public service.

30/09/2020

A global crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic that started in early 2020 poses significant challenges for how research is conducted and communicated. We present four case studies from the perspective of an interdisciplinary research institution that switched to “corona-mode” during the first two months of the crisis, focussing all its capacities on COVID-19-related issues, communicating to the public directly and via media, as well as actively advising the national government. The case studies highlight the challenges posed by the increased time pressure, high demand for transparency, and communication of complexity and uncertainty. The article gives insights into how these challenges were addressed in our research institution and how science communication in general can be managed during a crisis.

29/07/2019

Keyes [2004, p. 15] says: “In the post-truth era we don't just have truth or lies but a third category of ambiguous statements that are not exactly the truth but fall short of a lie”. In this paper about Hector's and Maui dolphin management in New Zealand, we argue that some scientific knowledge about these species presented and disseminated in ways that equate to this third category and as such may be classed as ‘post-truth type communication’. This generates citizen mistrust in science, scientists and government agencies and inflames conflict among informed stakeholders. We argue trust may be rebuilt by a combination of deliberative approaches to environmental governance, transparency about uncertainties, information gaps and divergent scientific opinions, and reformulation of normal scientific approaches and assumptions to those advocated by post-normal science.

14/06/2019

Today, science and politics are in a complex status of reciprocal dependency. Politics is dependent on scientific expertise in order to adequately address highly complex social problems, and science is fundamentally dependent on public funding and on political regulation. Taken together, the diverse interactions, interrelations and interdependencies of science and politics create a heterogenous and complex patchwork — namely, the science-policy interface. The societal relevance for phenomena such as scientific policy advice, science governance or (politically fostered) science communication have been amplified by the developments of digitalisation and now call for new approaches to clarify the ambiguous relationships within the science-policy interface. This special issue aims to provide a platform for researchers to address communication at the intersection of science and politics from different angles. The research presented in the special issue, thus, aims to reduce the contingency of science-policy communication in its various dimensions and looks to spur further investigations into the science-policy interface.

14/06/2019

We explore and discuss the diverse motives that drive science communication, pointing out that political motives are the major driving force behind most science communication programmes including so-called public engagement with science with the result that educational and promotional objectives are blurred and science communication activities are rarely evaluated meaningfully. Since this conflation of motives of science communication and the gap between political rhetoric and science communication practice could threaten the credibility of science, we argue for the restoration of a crucial distinction between two types of science communication: educational/dialogic vs promotional/persuasive.

14/06/2019

This study investigates how different segments of the public, with varying degrees of interest in S&T, could formulate opinions on a broader vision and the role they think STI should play in Japanese society through 2020 (Tokyo's Olympic and Paralympic year) and toward 2030. We conducted nine inclusive public engagement activities. Results indicated that the broad public opinions did not completely overlap with officials' opinions, a value of “open and appropriate” was mainly found from the unengaged public, and the visions and values based on their opinions could well be incorporated into the official document. Engaging the disinterested in S&T remains an issue.

14/06/2019

This paper explores the possible role of Open Science in the knowledge transfer between research and policy, focusing on its potential use by scientific councillors at Estonian ministries. Qualitative interviews with scientific councillors show that they perceive their role as intermediaries between research and policy and focus their work on improving the quality of research commissioned by their ministry. This process, for them, involves using existing academic articles and datasets to which, however, they lack official access. We show that Open Science can contribute to knowledge transfer if there are knowledge brokers in public sector organizations.

14/06/2019

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) proceeds on the assumption that scientific consensus is a tool for successful climate communication. While ‘speaking with one voice’ has contributed to the Panel's success in putting climate change on the public and political agenda, the consensus policy is also contested, as our literature analysis (n=106) demonstrates. The arguments identified thereby inform a survey of climate scientists (n=138), who are the ones responsible for realising the policy. The data indicate moderate support for the consensus policy but significantly more in traditional climate sciences than in social sciences, life- and geosciences.

14/06/2019

In 2010 both India and Europe launched new strategies focused on innovation, for economic growth and for addressing societal challenges: the Decade of Innovation from the Indian Government and the Innovation Union from the European Union. This piqued our interest in investigating how these two political entities have envisioned the concept of innovation, particularly in studying and comparing how they have focused on people, both as final beneficiaries (and thus principal legitimisers) of policy actions, and as actors themselves in the innovation process. Per contra we found, in institutional documents, very different descriptions of how to adequately realise citizens' involvement, spanning from the abiding reference to people's inclusion in the Indian case to the varied discourses on public engagement in EU, down to the passive role accorded to citizens in some Expert Groups reports. The comparison between the understandings of innovation (and innovators) in the two contexts can enlarge and refine the argumentative and metaphoric repertoire of science communicators. Further, it can form the basis of a mature and shared debate on the role that knowledge production and innovation policies can and should play in the public governance of science and technology.

14/06/2019

Complex political decisions increasingly require scientific knowledge and expertise. But the exchange between actors from the political and the scientific systems is confronted by challenges. Science policy interfaces are needed in order to overcome the barriers to communication. This article analyses and discusses the importance of foundations as science policy interfaces. To this end, we will first present the salient features and functions of foundations as organisations in the framework of theoretical considerations and discuss their fundamental suitability as mediators of scientific knowledge in the political process. We will then identify the significance of foundations as science policy interfaces using a quantitative content analysis of references to foundations in the debates of the 18th German Bundestag.

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