Scientific Advice in a Troubled World


Sir Peter Gluckman

Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of New Zealand

Chair, International Network of Government Science Advice

University Distinguished Professor, University of Auckland

January 31 2017


Most of us would hopefully accept that governments will make better decisions if they use well-developed evidence wisely. At the same time however, evidence can be ignored, manipulated or even falsely constructed for particular ends. The ability for misleading information to become the basis of political advocacy, strategy and policy making is not new but it has now become much more apparent and is creating great concern. Nor is this a crisis of knowledge or expertise as some would argue. Rather, what has changed is the nature, speed and pervasiveness of communication and the ease with which individuals can themselves generate and transmit information, whether it is true, altered or false.

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What is required to build capacity for science advice in developing countries?

We are happy to begin a partnership with the International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA), an organization that has made great strides in understanding and changing the dynamics of science advice. This is particularly important in the developing world, where there is a continued need to strengthen both the “supply” and the “demand” sides of the science advice coin. Drawing on our experience and perspectives at Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), I would like to underscore four key areas for action. These relate to individual capacity, organizational capacity, science communication skills, and the overall science and innovation ecosystem that supports science advice.

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If the principles of responsibility, integrity, independence and accountability are the answer, then what was the question?

INGSA Guest Blog from Dr. Marc Saner

I had the privilege to be the rapporteur at the Workshop on Principles & Guidelines for Government Scientific Advice held on September 28, 2016 and to report the results to the plenary of the 2nd INGSA Conference two days later.  The workshop was facilitated by James Wilsdon and Dan Sarewitz and included approximately 40 experts from 20 nations, with additional input from the Global Young Academy. I offer here observations from the rapporteur’s vantage point.

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A theory of principles for science advisors

Guest blog from Dr Heather Douglas

On Wednesday Sept. 28, science advisors and scholars of science advice met to address the challenges of articulating principles for science advice, principles that would be applicable across institutional contexts and political cultures.  The World Science Forum at Budapest in November 2015 framed the challenge in a “call for concerted action of scientists and policy-makers to define and promulgate universal principles for developing and communicating science to inform and evaluate policy based on responsibility, integrity, independence, and accountability.” (World Science Forum 2015)  As the declaration from the forum noted, “the independence, transparency, visibility and accountability of those who receive and provide advice has never been more important.”  (ibid.)

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Principles of science advice to government: key problems and feasible solutions

Guest blog from Paul Cairney: Politics & Public Policy 

Q: can we design principles of science advice to government to be universal, exhaustive, coherent, clearly defined, and memorable?

If not, we need to choose between these requirements. So, who should get to choose and what should their criteria be?

I provide six scenarios to help us make clear choices between trade-offs. Please enjoy the irony of a 2000-word post calling for a small number of memorable heuristics.

In 2015, the World Science Forum declared the value of scientific advice to government and called for a set of principles to underpin the conduct of people giving that advice, based on the principles including transparency, visibility, responsibility, integrity, independence, and accountability. INGSA is taking this recommendation forward, with initial discussions led by Peter Gluckman, James Wilsdon and Daniel Sarewitz and built on many existing documents outlining those principles, followed by consultation and key contributions from people like Heather Douglas and Marc Saner. Here is Marc Saner summing up the pre-conference workshop:

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Five Plus Four Ingredients for the Effective Use of Science to Inform Policy

A highlight of the 2015 World Science Forum in Budapest this year was the final session of the forum, which was held in the chambers of the Hungarian National Assembly.  This final session was opened by His Excellency János Áder, President of Hungary.  The session included a panel discussion moderated by Sir Peter Gluckman, Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, which featured a two-part discussion on both the supply and demand sides of science advice in policy making.

Panel speakers included:

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INGSA Recognised at World Science Forum

On November 4th 2015 in the margins of the 7th Word Science Forum (WSF) held in Budapest Hungary, INGSA convened a seminar of practitioners and thought leaders in science advice to governments to discuss an identified challenge in science advice practice: the provision of science advice at the international level. The seminar was an opportunity to explore and suggest solutions to reconciling the inherent tension that often arises between scientific consensus and national interests. Speakers were invited to make short remarks or present slides, guided by the following questions:

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Welcome to the redeveloped website for INGSA

posted in: INGSA Blog | 0

So much has happened since August 2014 and the first Science Advice to Governments conference in Auckland New Zealand. Organisers of the conference are pleased to introduce this redeveloped website and the ongoing work to maintain momentum and build on the vibrant global discussion that started in Auckland, through the new International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA). Having served as the community hub for discussion and resources during that conference, this website is now being redeveloped as the ongoing home of the Network, which is a conference legacy initiative for practitioners and scholars of government science advice.

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