Richard Andersson, a postdoctoral researcher in neurobiology from Stockholm, is worried about the gap between politics and science. How do we empower decision makers to make choices about our future which are based on science and logic?
The world is facing huge problems without straight-forward solutions. We will have to rely on science and innovation to solve them. But how do we disseminate science into the halls of power? My answer is: we need to disseminate the scientists!
Let me explain. Many of us – including myself – have turned to science advocacy and science communication because we believe that promoting and disseminating science will empower decision makers and the public to tackle complex societal challenges. Problems such as climate change, poverty, aging populations, food-security, infectious diseases, and urban over-crowding need a systematic and dynamic data-driven approach in order to understand what is working and why. In other words we need to apply the scientific method to solve these pressing issues.
But how receptive are decision-makers to scientific advice? I think a central problem is that scientific advice can often come across as abstract and impractical when it comes from a science professor. Improving the communication skills of academicians might help somewhat. However, even the best communicators will in some respect not bridge the gap because it is not single messages that need to be transmitted on occasion but an entire world-view.
One example that would perhaps illustrate this point is the climate-change problem. While there is an overwhelming consensus among scientists that we have to mitigate the effects, there is still significant resistance to tackle this challenge. The reason? The warnings are taken not seriously in the halls of power because most people working there don’t have a science background.
The scientists need to be part of the group that makes decisions. When they offer their perspective while fully informed about the situation the advice is more likely to be taken seriously than if it comes from the outside.
Science is what tells us how the world works and we can’t afford to have it be a blind spot anymore. It is time to climb down from the ivory tower and get science in to the board room.
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