Scientific advice to governments

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Submission deadline

Scientific advice to governments has never been in greater demand; nor has it been more contested. From climate change to cyber-security, poverty to pandemics, food technologies to fracking, the questions being asked of scientists, engineers and other experts by policymakers, the media and the wider public continue to multiply and increase in complexity. At the same time, the authority and legitimacy of experts are under increasing scrutiny, particularly on controversial topics, such as climate change and genetically modified crops.

This thematic Collection brings together leading contributors – from across Europe and internationally – to the theory, practice and politics of scientific advice. It will build on the conclusions of a landmark conference in Auckland in August 2014, which led to the creation of the International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA).

Articles are invited that explore scientific advice from a range of disciplinary perspectives, including science and technology studies, science policy studies, political science, sociology and philosophy. Case studies and practitioner perspectives are also welcome.

Topics that the Collection hopes to cover include:

  • Institutional arrangements for scientific advice in national governments, European and international institutions;
  • Different modes of scientific advice: including deliberative and informal advice; advice in crises and emergencies; foresight and horizon scanning;
  • The relationship between scientific advice and wider approaches to evidence-informed policymaking;
  • The qualities, skills and capabilities of scientific advisors and policy commissioners and ‘customers’ of advice;
  • The role of different types of evidence and expertise in advisory processes (including from the natural sciences, engineering, social and behavioural sciences, arts and humanities), and the prospects for inter- or trans-disciplinary approaches;
  • The role of public values, engagement and dialogue in science advisory processes;
  • The contribution of boundary organisations to scientific advisory systems and processes, including national academies, learned societies, think tanks, business lobby groups, NGOs, foundations and civil society organisations;
  • Scientific advice in situations of uncertainty, complexity and ‘post-normal’ science;
  • Science advice in diplomacy and international relations.
Exterior of the European Parliament building entrance


Where next for evidence and policy in post-Brexit Britain?

Thursday 22 June, 2017

The referendum on Brexit highlighted a major disconnect in the treatment of scientific evidence and expert advice. Michael Gove’s phrase ‘people in this country have had enough of experts’ has been used frequently to describe some public scepticism of elite expert advice in salient issues driven by emotion and belief. Yet, the Remain campaign relied heavily on expert backing and the UK government has developed less visible but significant moves to strengthen institutions for scientific advice and evidence-informed policymaking. Much of the detail of policy is processed out of the public spotlight, in bureaucratic arenas where experts tend to be well represented. The UK’s new Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU) has earmarked fifty-seven policy areas that will be significantly affected by Brexit and, in each case, the role of expertise may shift to reflect shifts in policymaking. Ensuring that UK policymakers have access to the best available evidence and advice in support of the Article 50 negotiations is clearly crucial. This prompts us to ask: what is, and should be, the future of ‘evidence-based policymaking’ and how should ‘experts’ engage to make sure that their evidence is heard?

This panel event explored the role of and responses to experts and expertise in the changing political landscape in regards to evidence and policymaking in post-Brexit Britain.

Chair: Professor James Wilsdon (Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Sheffield)








Watch all the presentations from the event by clicking on the links below.

Call for papers

We are currently inviting submissions for a related article collection ("special issue") on The Politics of Evidence-based Policymaking: Maximising the Use of Evidence in Policy guest edited by Professor Paul Cairney (Professor of Politics and Public Policy, Division of History and Politics, University of Stirling, UK).