SCIENCE ADVICE FOR POLICY
BY EUROPEAN ACADEMIES

Making sense of science for policy under conditions of complexity and uncertainty

Now more than ever, policymakers need good quality science advice to inform their decisions, and the very policy issues for which scientific input is most needed are the ones where the science itself is often complex and uncertain.

Our evidence review report highlights the fact that many of the world’s most pressing problems are also incredibly complex — including climate change, environmental pollution, economic crises and the digital transformation of societies. What’s more, the scientific knowledge around these areas can often be uncertain or contested.

Science is one of many sources of knowledge that inform policy. Its unique strength is that it is based on rigorous enquiry, continuous analysis and debate, providing a set of evidence that can be respected as valid, relevant and reliable.

Science advice supports effective policymaking by providing the best available knowledge, which can then be used to understand a specific problem, generate and evaluate policy options and monitor results of policy implementation. It also provides meaning to the discussion around critical topics within society.  The advice works best when it is guided by the ideal of co-creation of knowledge and policy options between scientists and policymakers.

The relationship between science advisers and policymakers relies on building mutual trust, where both scientists and policymakers are honest about their values and goals.

Scientific knowledge should always inform societal debate and decision-making. Citizens often have their own experiences of the policy issue under consideration and should be included in the ongoing process of deliberation between scientists, policymakers and the public.

 

Recommendations from the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors

Working group members

Professor
Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), Potsdam
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Professor
University College Dublin
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Professor (Emeritus)
University of Naples Federico II
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Professor
Leiden University
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Professor
University of Southern Denmark
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Professor
National Academy of Technologies of France

Professor
Copenhagen Business School
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Professor
Wrocław University of Science and Technology
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Professor
Biocenter Finland

Professor
Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm
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Professor
Polytechnic University of Bucharest
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Professor (Emerita)
University of Cambridge
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Professor
Lund University
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Professor
University of Sussex
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Professor
University of Bergen & Utrecht University
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Professor
University of Zagreb
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Policy impact

  • European Food Safety Authority: discussed at a Scientific Committee meeting in 2019. 
  • German parliament: included in a written statement to an expert hearing of the research committee in May 2020. 

Events

Research integrity
During this time of crisis, when policymakers and citizens are listening closely to the advice of scientists, trust in the integrity of research and scientific evidence has never been more important. Policymakers and the public must have confidence that scientists have acted with honesty, and have adhered to principles of rigour, transparency and openness in conducting their research.
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Digital media in crisis situations
What has been the role of the media, including social media and local news, on our public debate, attitudes and behaviour during this current pandemic? As we emerge from this crisis, could we rethink the role that media and digital platforms play in facilitating the flow of information and dialogue between experts, policymakers and the public, particularly in emergency situations?
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Science advice: what works in a crisis?
2020's Covid-19 outbreak has shone the spotlight on science advice like never before. How well are Europe's science advice frameworks standing up to this major stress test?
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Making Sense of Science at the Royal Irish Academy
This Royal Irish Academy workshop, which will hear from high-level experts, will discuss the findings of the SAPEA report on Making Sense of Science and reflect on what insights might be applied to science advice in Ireland. The discussions will focus on both the European and the Irish dimension of evidence-informed policymaking
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Making Sense Of Science For Policy: A Lively Panel Discussion At The University Of Cambridge
On 30th January, a panel discussion on the ‘Making Sense of Science for Policy’ Evidence Review Report was hosted by the Cambridge University Science and Policy Exchange (CUSPE) at Magdalene College, Cambridge.
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Evidence-informed policy: a Norwegian perspective
A seminar assessing the findings of the SAPEA report ‘Making sense of science for policy’ was hosted by Academia Europaea Bergen Hub in collaboration with the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. The seminar, held on 4 November in Oslo, reflected on what insights of the report might be applied to the science advice process in Norway. The event was designed around two linked sessions, one focused on the European dimension of evidence-informed policy and the second examining Norwegian policymaking.
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European Research & Innovation Days
Our recent report “Making sense of science for policy under conditions of complexity and uncertainty” was discussed on 26 September during a panel debate at the European Research and  Innovation Days. The main findings of the report were presented by the chair of the SAPEA working group Ortwin Renn. Our report informs a scientific opinion of the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors, which was handed over to the European Commission during the event.
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Roundtable discussion on Making Sense of Science
On the occasion of its 30th anniversary celebration (24 September 201,9) Academia Europaea hosted a roundtable discussion on the topic of "making sense of science" at the Royal Society in London. The forthcoming SAPEA report was extensively discussed.
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Shaping Horizons
The first international summit and action programme on science, policy and innovation for a changing world, gathering 150 young leaders from across the UK and Latin America to engage with senior world leaders and ignite change.
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News

17 November 2019: Unite to defend evidence-informed policy, science advice community tells Commission
Politicians, scientists and civil society need to defend evidence-informed policy as a cornerstone of liberal democracy. This was the #1 message to send to the new European Commission, as voted by Europe’s science advice community at a major event in Helsinki.
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07 November 2019: Evidence-informed policy: a Norwegian perspective
A seminar assessing the findings of the SAPEA report ‘Making sense of science for policy’ was hosted by Academia Europaea Bergen Hub in collaboration with the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. The seminar, held on 4 November in Oslo, reflected on what insights of the report might be applied to the science advice process in Norway. The event was designed around two linked sessions, one focused on the European dimension of evidence-informed policy and the second examining Norwegian policymaking.
Read more
03 October 2019: Science and Society Conference: Science as Storytelling: From Facts to Fictions
20th European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) ‘Science and Society Conference: Science as Storytelling: From Facts to Fictions‘ will be held on 24 – 25 October 2019 in Heidelberg, Germany. 
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27 September 2019: Full house at debate on evidence in policymaking
Representatives from SAPEA, the European Commission’s science advisors, and the Joint Research Centre yesterday addressed a packed room on how to ensure EU policy is informed by the best available evidence.
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20 August 2019: SAPEA science advice symposium
SAPEA will host an international symposium on science advice for policy in November, together with the Finnish Academy of Sciences and Letters, the Academy of Finland, the Prime Minister’s Office of Finland and the Ministry of Education and Culture.
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09 July 2019: Science advice offers unique benefits to policymakers in tackling global challenges like climate change, say experts
Now more than ever, policymakers need good quality science advice to inform their decisions. Yet — as a new report by European academies highlights — the very policy issues for which scientific input is most needed are the ones where the science itself is often complex and uncertain.
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08 June 2018: New topic: Making Sense of Science under conditions of complexity and uncertainty
The European Commission Group of Chief Scientific Advisors adopted this topic to address policy makers using scientific advice within the European Commission.
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Academic impact

Jackson, P., Rivera Ferre, M.G., Candel, J., Davies A., Derani C., de Vries H., Dragović-Uzelac V., Håkon Hoel A., Holm L., Mathijs E., Morone P., Penker M., Śpiewak R., Termeer K., Thøgersen J. (2021), Food as a commodity, human right or common good., Nat Food . 2021

Media coverage

06 December 2021: Humanities and Social Sciences Communications volume
Process expertise in policy advice: Designing collaboration in collaboration
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01 October 2020: Australian Academy of Science
Science Policy and Diplomacy newsletter—INGSA Covid-19 special edition October 2020
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13 June 2020: International Science Council
VIDEO: Making Sense of Science for Policy
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08 June 2020: Wissenschaft kommuniziert
„Zielgruppen: Zivilgesellschaft, Bürgerorganisationen, NGOs“ – Wissenschaftskommunikation nach Corona
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19 March 2020: The Irish Times
Scientific advisers strive to be ‘honest brokers’ in times of crisis
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07 February 2020: S4D4C
S4D4C helps to build the science-policy nexus for sustainable development goals
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02 February 2020: Forskningspolitikk
Føre-var-prinsippet og mulige miljøkatastrofer, om kvikksølvet i ubåtvraket på Fedje
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17 December 2019: Forskningspolitikk
Kunnskapspolitikk i Norge og en ubåt utenfor Fedje
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27 September 2019: IASS Potsdam
Wissenschaft sinnvoll für politische Entscheidungen nutzen
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05 August 2019: Polish Academy of Sciences
Raport SAPEA 'Making sense of science for policy under conditions of complexity and uncertainty”
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30 July 2019: Vědě a výzkumu
Expertní zpráva poukazuje na význam vědeckých stanovisek pro politiky
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28 July 2019: Ceska veda do sveta
Expertní zpráva poukazuje na význam vědeckých stanovisek pro politiky
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28 July 2019: Parlamentni listy
Akademie věd: Expertní zpráva poukazuje na význam vědeckých stanovisek pro politiky
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24 July 2019: Cardiff University
Evidence ‘vital’ in fake news world
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24 July 2019: Czech Academy of Sciences
Expertní zpráva poukazuje na význam vědeckých stanovisek pro politiky
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17 July 2019: Wissenschafts Kommunikation
Making Sense of Science for Policy
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16 July 2019: Royal Irish Academy
SAPEA: new report on science advice for policy
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15 July 2019: American Institute of Physics
Evidence Review Report International Affairs
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10 July 2019: Academia Europea
Evidence Review Report "Making sense of science for policy under conditions of complexity and uncertainty"
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10 July 2019: Euro-CASE
Making sense of science for policy under conditions of complexity and uncertainty
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10 July 2019: Era Portal Austria
SAPEA report delivers recommendations on high-quality science policy advice
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10 July 2019: IASS Potsdam
EU-Politik braucht wissenschaftliche Expertise
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10 July 2019: Reasearch Professional
Science advice needs ethics oversight, academies say
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09 July 2019: My Science
Making sense of science
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09 July 2019: Mirage news
Making sense of science
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09 July 2019: University of Sussex
Making sense of science
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