Multiple perspectives matter in shaping science policy too

The most popular Danish cultural export in recent times is arguably the TV series Borgen. Outlining the intricacies of the mechanisms of democracy, the series follows Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg in her rise and fall from power. Scientific themes pervade the series because science is at the heart of many societal issues debated by politicians prior to translating decisions into policies that ultimately will affect citizens. Issues at stake in the series range from the environment, with green power production, to agriculture, with intensive pig farming.

The mechanisms leading to the adoption of specific policies in party politics portrayed across the episodes appear convoluted. Those defining science policy in Europe are, by far, not less convoluted—it is a long term game, subject to countless twists and turns.

Politicians’ choices about which kind of science to support take into account other factors other than just scientific facts. Often, various influencing factors, such as lobbies and public opinion may be key in politicians’ decision making. These too often dwarf the influence of the scientific advice received, despite its solid evidence base.

One contributing factor to this disconnect is the missing link between the views of politicians and those of scientists. Although issues at stakes can be very complex, sometimes there appears to be a lack of understanding of the value of what science can bring to those at the receiving end of research: citizens.

Thus, linking these three entities together—scientists, political players and citizens—requires, among others, the mediation of journalists and communicators. This is why the media plays a key role in stimulating the debates surrounding policies, in Borgen. And this is why discussions through pan European participatory media, such as the EuroScientist, have a key role to play in promoting evidence-based policy making and stimulating open debate during this process.

In parallel, the ESOF 2014 conference–due to be held in Copenhagen between 21st and 26th June 2014–provides a rare opportunity for “citizens and journalists and scientists and politicians and policy makers [of] getting together. And that’s quite unusual,” as Anne Glover, Chief Scientific Advisory to the European Union, puts in an exclusive interview to the EuroScientist. Perhaps, the crux of the matter is precisely that: such gatherings are not frequent enough!

Sabine Louët, Editor, EuroScientist

Sabine Louët will take part to an ESOF 2014 session entitled The future of science communication.

Another ESOF 2014 session relevant to this editorial is entitled: Evidence-based policies in a world of uncertainty and ambiguity.

Featured image credit: Mike Kollöffel, DR

Go back to the Special Issue: ESOF2014


Sabine Louët

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