What is the relationship between science and policy

Science policy - Wikipedia

what is the relationship between science and policy

This way of thinking about the relationship between knowledge and . The relationship between social science and politics in this example is. Science policy is concerned with the allocation of resources for the conduct of science towards . The delay between the theory of coherent light and the production of the laser was partially due to the assumption that it would be of no practical. The relationship between science and technology H. ErgasDoes technology policy matter? N. RosenbergCritical issues in science policy research. Science .

Simple solutions to complex problems are rarer than most people think. No policy will ever be perfect Whatever the decision, the effects of policy are almost always uneven. For example, any changes to taxes and benefits will leave some people better off and other worse off; and while the research impact agenda has been undoubtedly positive in some respects, it has caused problems in others.

Policy makers can be expert too Scientists often consider themselves as the "experts" who engage with policy makers. In my experience, many policy makers are experts too. Some have excellent research credentials, and frequently they understand the research base well.

When I worked at the University of Cambridge, one of my jobs was to connect researchers to policy makers; the researchers often told me how much they learned from speaking to policy makers. In other words, if you are a scientist talking to a policy maker, don't assume that you are the only expert in the room.

Policy makers are not a homogenous group "Policy maker" is at least as broad a term as "researcher". It includes civil servants ranging from senior to junior, generalist to specialist, and to those in connected agencies and regional government; it includes politicians in government and opposition, in the Commons and the Lords; and then there are all the people who might not directly make the decisions, but as advisers can strongly influence them.

Policy makers are people too See number 12 of the Sutherland, Spiegelhalter and Burgman list. Policy makers are people who, despite extensive training and the best of intentions, will sometimes make bad decisions and get things wrong. Also, they may — like scientists — choose to act in their own interest … 6.

Policy decisions are subject to extensive scrutiny … which is why, like science — which mitigates human nature insofar as it is possible with the principles of academic rigour and peer review — policy is regulated by professional guidelines, a variety of checks and balances, and scrutiny that comes from a wide range of institutions and angles.

For example, Parliament scrutinises government and the House of Lords scrutinises the House of Commons. Starting policies from scratch is very rarely an option A former government minister once told me that, on taking office, he decided to meet with a number of academics to seek advice on how to fix his particular policy domain — which was, and still is, largely broken. He found the experience to be deeply frustrating because everyone he met said: But he wasn't; he needed solutions that could evolve from within the existing ecosystem.

This rule applies in a lot of policy areas, from infrastructure to education, from the NHS to pensions. There is more to policy than scientific evidence Policies are not made in isolation.

First there is a starting point in current policy, and there are usually some complex interactions between policies at different regional scales: This is true of policy areas such as drugs, defence, immigration and banking regulations. Law, economics, politics and public opinion are all important factors; scientific evidence is only part of the picture that a policy maker has to consider.

Most of the major policy areas that consistently draw opprobrium from scientists are far more complicated than just scientific evidence: Economics and law are top dogs in policy advice When it comes to advice sought by policy makers, economics and law are top dogs.

Science policy

Scientific evidence comes further down the pecking order. Whether or not this is the best way to make policy is not the point, it is just a statement of how things work in practice. Public opinion matters Many of the most important public policy decisions are made by people who were directly elected, and most of the rest are taken by people who work for them. We live in a democracy and public opinion is a critical component of the policy process.

The public is directly involved in many planning decisions and public opinion is a consideration in the distribution of healthcare providers, schools and transport services. Complex policy areas such as drugs, alcohol, immigration and education, are all heavily influenced by public opinion. Policy makers do understand uncertainty It is commonly asserted by scientists that policy makers prefer to be given information that is certain, and I have even heard some say that policy makers don't understand uncertainty.

It is true to say that policy makers are not fond of information so laden with caveats that it is useless. Better than hazy comments about policy makers not understanding uncertainty, the Sutherland, Spiegelhalter and Burgman list is a productive explanation of what knowledge and skills would help policy makers.

what is the relationship between science and policy

Parliament and government are different In the UK, the distinction between parliament and government is profound. Parliament — the legislature — debates public issues, makes laws and scrutinises government. Government — the executive — is led by select members of parliament and is responsible for designing and implementing policy. Parliament is made up of over a thousand MPs and peers, with a small staff of only a few thousand. Government is made up of only a hundred MPs and peers, with a staff of hundreds of thousands.

For the record, I work in parliament. Policy and politics are not the same thing Policy is mostly about the design and implementation of a particular intervention. Politics is about how the decision was made. Policy is mostly determined in government, where the politics is focused by ministers, the cabinet, and the party leadership. In the House of Commons, there is less policy and more politics. But while Brooks's distinction has proved useful, reality is more complex, because the way society views science policy itself shapes the sorts of questions that arise in science policy debates.

Science for policy and policy for science are each activities that shape the other—in academic jargon they are coproduced. Policy for science decisions about the structure, functions, and priorities of science directly influence the kind of science that will be available in science for policy applications, and the ways science is used in policy formation will influence in turn the policies formulated for science. Policy for science and science for policy are subsets of what might be more accurately described as a policy for science for policy Pielke and Betsill To the extent that thinking about science policy separates decisions about knowledge from the role of knowledge in decision making, it reinforces a practical separation of science from policy.

From such a perspective, David Guston has argued the need to develop a new language to talk about science policy, one that recognizes how science and policy are in important respects inextricably intertwined; separation is impossible.

Instead, however, the artificial separation of science from policy is frequently reinforced with calls for a new social contract between science and society. As Guston notes, "Based on a misapprehension of the recent history of science policy and on a failed model of the interaction between politics and science, such evocations insist on a pious rededication of the polity to science, a numbing rearticulation of the rationale for the public support of research, or an obscurantist resystemization of research nomenclature" Guston Internet site The present analysis of science policy in the United States, with a particular focus on federally-funded science, thus begins by examining the value structure that underlies science and its relationship to decision making, and focuses on how science and policy have come to be viewed as separate enterprises in need of connection.

This will set the stage for a discussion of an ongoing revolution in science policy that challenges conventional understandings of science in society. In the early years of the twenty-first century it is unclear how this revolution will play out. But a few trends seem well established. First, the science policies that have shaped thinking and action over the past fifty years are unlikely to continue for the next fifty years.

Second, decision makers and society more generally have elevated expectations about the role that science ought to play in contributing to the challenges facing the world.

Third, the scientific community nevertheless struggles to manage and meet these expectations. Together these trends suggest that more than ever society needs systematic thinking about science policy—that is research on science policy itself.

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And such research should center on issues of ethics and values. Axiology of Science A value structure is part of any culture, and the culture of science is no different. Alvin Weinberg suggests four explicitly normative axiological attitudes—statements of value—which scientists hold about their profession. Whereas Weinberg's concern was the physical sciences, such perspectives are broadly applicable to all aspects of science: Pure is better than applied.

General is better than particular. Search is better than codification. Paradigm breaking is better than spectroscopy. For Weinberg, these attitudes are "so deeply a part of the scientist's prejudices as hardly to be recognized as implying" a theory of value Weinbergp.

But these values are critical factors for understanding both thinking about and the practice of science policy in the United States. And understanding why science policy is currently undergoing dramatic change requires an understanding of how Weinberg's theory of value, if not breaking down, is currently being challenged by an alternative axiology of science. Understanding the contemporary context of science in the United States requires a brief sojourn into the history of science.

In the latter part of the s, scientists began to resent "dependence on values extraneous to science," Danielsp. The period saw such resentment come to a head. The decade, in a word, witnessed the development, as a generally shared ideology, of the notion of science for science's sake.

Science was no longer to be pursued as a means of solving some material problem or illustrating some Biblical text; it was to be pursued simply because the truth—which was what science was thought to be uniquely about—was lovely in itself, and because it was praiseworthy to add what one could to the always developing cathedral of knowledge. Science had become an interest group.

Scientists who approached the federal government for support of research activities clashed with a federal government expressing the need for any such investments to be associated with practical benefits to society.

Expressing a value structure that goes back at least to Aristotle, U. Hence, the phrase pure research came to refer to this higher calling with purity serving as a euphemism for the lack of attention to practical, real-world concerns Daniels The first editorial published in Science magazine in clearly expressed a value structure: Research is none the less genuine, investigation none the less worthy, because the truth it discovers is utilizable for the benefit of mankind.

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Granting, even, that the discovery of truth for its own sake is a nobler pursuit. It may readily be conceded that the man who discovers nothing himself, but only applies to useful purposes the principle which others have discovered, stands upon a lower plane than the investigator Editorialp.

Some scientists of the period, including Thomas Henry Huxley and Louis Pasteurresisted what they saw as a false distinction between pure and applied science HuxleyStokes Some policy makers of the period also rejected such a distinction.

For them, utility was the ultimate test of the value of science Dupree The late s saw different perspectives on the role of science and society coexisting simultaneously. But Weinberg's axiology of science emerged from the period as the value structure that would shape the further development of U.

what is the relationship between science and policy

From Pure to Basic Research In a well-documented transition, Weinberg's axiology of science stressed the primacy not so much of pure as of basic research. The term basic research was not in frequent use prior to the s.

But after World War II the concept became so fundamental to science policy that it is difficult to discuss the subject without invoking the corresponding axiology.

The notion of basic research arose in parallel with both the growing significance of science in policy and the growing sophistication of scientists in politics. By the end of World War II and the detonation of the first nuclear weapons the acceleration of the development of science-based technology was inescapable.

Science Policy

Throughout society science was recognized as a source of change and progress whose benefits, even if not always equally shared, were hard to dismiss. The new context of science in society provided both opportunity and challenge. Members of the scientific community, often valuing the pursuit of pure science for itself alone, found themselves in a bind.

what is the relationship between science and policy

The government valued science almost exclusively for the practical benefits that were somehow connected to research and development. Policymakers had little interest in funding science simply for the sake of knowledge production at a level desired by the scientific community, which itself had become considerably larger as a result of wartime investments.

Support for pure research was unthinkable. Congressional reticence to invest in pure science frustrated those in the scientific community who believed that, historically, advances in knowledge had been important, if not determining, factors in many practical advances. Therefore the scientific community began to develop a two-birds-with-one-stone argument to justify its desire to pursue truth and the demands of politics for practical benefits.

The argument held that pure research was the basis for many practical benefits, but that those benefits expected or realized ought not to be the standard for evaluating scientific work. Because if practical benefits were used as the standard of scientific accountability under the U.

The scientific community took advantage of the window of opportunity presented by the demonstrable contributions of science to the war effort and successfully altered science policy perspectives.

The effect was to replace the view held by most policymakers that science for knowledge's sake was of no use, and replaced it with the idea that all research could potentially lead to practical benefits. In the words of Vannevar Bushthe leading formulator of this postwar science policy perspective: Central to this change in perspective was acceptance of the phrase basic research and, at least in policy and political settings, the gradual obsolescence of the term pure research. The term basic came without the pejorative notion associated with lack of purity imputed to practically focused work.

More importantly, the term basic means in a dictionary-definition sense fundamental, essential, or a starting point. Research that was basic could easily be interpreted by a policymaker as being fundamental to practical benefits. The linear model holds that basic research leads to applied research, which in turn leads to development and application Pielke and Byerly To increase the output that is, societal benefits of the linear model, it is necessary to increase the input support for science.

Bush's seminal report Science—The Endless Frontier "implied that in return for the privilege of receiving federal support, the researcher was obligated to produce and share knowledge freely to benefit—in mostly unspecified and long-term ways—the public good" Office of Technology Assessmentp.

One of the fundamental assumptions of postwar science policy is that science provides a reservoir or fund of knowledge that can be tapped and applied to national needs.

The centers of basic research As long as they are vigorous and healthy and their scientists are free to pursue the truth wherever it may lead, there will be a flow of new scientific knowledge to those who can apply it to practical problems in Government, in industry, or elsewhere.


This model posits that societal benefits are to be found downstream from the reservoir of knowledge. Others have described the liner model as a ladder, an assembly lineand a linked-chain GomoryWiseKline It is used descriptively to explain how the relation actually works and normatively to argue how the relation ought to work. The linear model appears in discussions of both science policy, where it is used to describe the relation of research and societal needs Brownand in technology policy, where it is used to describe the relation of research and innovation Branscomb The linear model was based on assumptions of efficacy, and not comparisons with possible alternatives.

House of Representatives Science Committeeobserved that members of Congress defer to the claims of scientists that basic research is fundamental to societal benefits "and for that reason, if for no other, they have supported basic research in the past" Daddariop. So long as policymakers and scientists felt that science was meeting social needs, the linear model was unquestioned.

The notion of basic research and the linear model of which it was a part has been tremendously successful from the standpoint of the values of the scientific community.

Indeed the terms basic and applied have thus become fundamental to discussions of science and society. For example, the National Science Foundation NSF in its annual report Science and Engineering Indicators uses precisely these terms to structure its taxonomy of science. Not only did the basic-applied distinction present a compelling, utilitarian case for government support of the pursuit of knowledge, it also explicitly justified why pure research "deserves and requires special protection and specially assured support" Bushp.

The special protections included relative autonomy from political control and standards of accountability determined through the internal criteria of science. In a classic piece, Michael Polanyi sketched in idealized fashion how a republic of science structured according to the values of pure science provides an invisible hand pushing scientific progress toward discovering knowledge which would have inevitable benefits for society.

Freedom versus Accountability From the perspective of the scientific community, from the prewar to postwar periods, the concepts of pure research and basic research remained one and the same: