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Evidence ‘vital’ in fake news world

24 July 2019

Science experiment

Scientific evidence is vital for policymakers in a world of populism, post-truth and fake news, says a report by an expert group co-ordinated by Cardiff University.

The University-based hub of Academia Europaea, a European academy which promotes excellence in scholarship, investigated the provision of scientific advice for policymakers.

The report, which will inform European Commission policy makers, said the contribution of scientists to policymaking “should be encouraged and valued, rather than swept aside”.

But the authors also stressed that the relationship between science advisers and policymakers “relies on building mutual trust, where both scientists and policymakers are honest about their values and goals”.

Chair of the working group for the report Professor Ortwin Renn, from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam, said: “Science advice for policymaking is in high demand and in urgent need.  

“In today’s world of ‘fake news’, it is vital that we review the best available evidence and communicate it clearly to policymakers and the public.

“Where the science is uncertain, we must assess and explain those uncertainties, ambiguities and tensions.  

“We live in democracies, where public scrutiny and accountability of both scientists and policymakers are inevitable and even desirable.”

SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies) was tasked with producing the report, Making sense of science for policy under conditions of complexity and uncertainty.

Management and delivery were handled by Academia Europaea’s Cardiff University hub, which plays a key role in providing quality advice for policymaking in Europe.

The report highlighted that many of the world’s most pressing problems, such as climate change and economic crises, were incredibly complex with scientific knowledge often uncertain or contested.

But the authors concluded that scientific knowledge “should always inform societal debate and decision making”.

The SAPEA evidence review report is available here.

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