by Judith Curry
Peter Gluckman, New Zealand’s chief science adviser, offers his ten principles for building trust, influence, engagement and independence.
Nature News & Comment has an article by Peter Gluckman entitled The Art of Science Advice to Government (full article available online at the link. Excerpts from the top ten principles:
Maintain the trust of many. What was needed was clear communication of the knowns and unknowns.
Protect the independence of advice. The advisory role should be structured so as to protect its independence from both political interference and premature filtering in the policy process.
Report to the top. Scientific advice must be available directly — uncensored — to the head of government or the head of the relevant department.
Expect to inform policy, not make it. Science advice is about presenting a rigorous analysis of what we do and do not know.
Give science privilege as an input into policy. While acknowledging the other relevant inputs into policy formation, we need to demonstrate why science should hold a privileged place among the ‘types of knowledge’ that may be meaningful to a politician.
Recognize the limits of science. But scientists must not overstate what is or can be known, even though the shift from a view of science as a source of certainty to a source of probability can frustrate and confuse decision-makers and the public. [M]uch of the debate about climate change is not primarily about the data. Rather, it is about intergenerational economic interests.
Act as a broker not an advocate. Trust can be earned and maintained only if the science adviser or advisory committee acts as a knowledge broker, rather than as an advocate. When formal science advice is perceived as advocacy, trust in that advice and in the adviser is undermined, even if the advice is accepted. For example, exaggerated presentations about the causes of storms and floods can erode the credibility of the underlying argument about global warming.
Engage the scientific community. The science adviser must know how to reach out to scientists for the appropriate expertise, and help them to enact their social responsibility in making their knowledge accessible and understandable, and in being more self-aware about when they might be acting as advocates.
JC comments: This is an article well worth reading. It echoes many of the concerns that I have raised in some previous posts:
- Rethinking Climate Advocacy
- The ethics of framing science
- Responsible conduct in the global research enterprise
- (Ir)responsible advocacy by scientists
- Congressional testimony and normative science
- Too much advocacy?
This whole issue needs much more attention, and scientists engaged in the policy process need to become much better educated about these issues. In the climate community, it has become ‘fashionable’ to be an advocate, and I suspect many don’t really understand what they are really doing — after all, it is fashionable and a path to fame and (relative) fortune for an academic. The loss of trust in academic climate scientists that started with Climategate has never really recovered, IMO.
With regards to ‘report to the top,’ the recent thread on California drought raised the issue of the Holdren filter on the issue of climate science as received by President Obama (and also John Kerry). President Obama and Kerry are being exposed to a very extreme/alarmist version of climate science, beyond what the IPCC says.
The forthcoming workshop in New Zealand looks like a step in the right direction.