Art and Science of Policy Advice: Embedding Science into the Processes of Government

Sunday, February 14, 2016: 1:00 PM-2:30 PM
Wilson C (Marriott Wardman Park)
Sir Peter Gluckman, Government of New Zealand, Auckland, New Zealand
While the modes of public reason and the official, executive and legislative structures for policy making vary across jurisdictions, there is a growing understanding that science, including the social sciences, has something to offer to most aspects of policy making and evaluation. However there are inherent tensions between the cultures of science, and those of policy making and there is growing recognition of the value of boundary structures, whether as individuals or panels, to translate between these.  Tension arises because policy-making is dominated by values-laden considerations whereas science, while not values free, is based on processes largely designed to reduce the impact of values. Increasingly issues of concern to governments have a post-normal element, and effective science advice thus requires clarity as to its role and limits. Because there are at least 5 major forms of science input into policy processes, multiple processes will always be needed These are technical inputs given by experts either within or outside an agency, regulatory science, deliberative advice (where a complex question is posed for experts to address over a long-time frame or an academy proffers unrequested advice via a report), informal and rapid input at any point in a policy cycle and science advice in emergencies where advisory processes become intertwined with active decision making.  In the case of deliberative reports there needs to be coherence between the question posed and answered and it must be answered in a way that has utility beyond ‘more research is needed’. Most attention as focused on deliberative mechanisms but the essential role of informal advice is increasingly recognized and where there are individual science advisors this is their major mode of functioning. Irrespective, a number of clear principles are emerging by which science can more effectively impact on policy. These include avoiding scientific hubris, maintaining independence of advice, acknowledging the limits of science, and sustaining trust with multiple constituencies: the politician, the policy maker, the public/media and the scientific community. Where the advice is given with an overt agenda - that is acting as an advocate rather than a knowledge broker, that trust can be easily compromised.  Science advice can be used as, or be perceived to be, a lobbying effort for science funding undermining its effectiveness – science for policy has distinctions from policy for science. These issues will be discussed with illustrations of success and failure.