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

Working group members

Ortwin Renn
Chair
Professor
Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), Potsdam
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Declaration of interests
Maria Baghramian
Professor
University College Dublin
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Massimo Capaccioli
Professor (Emeritus)
University of Naples Federico II
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Sarah de Rijcke
Professor
Leiden University
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Kirsten Drotner
Professor
University of Southern Denmark
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Louis Dubertret
Professor
National Academy of Technologies of France
Declaration of interests
Alan Irwin
Professor
Copenhagen Business School
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Tadeusz Luty
Professor
Wrocław University of Science and Technology
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Marja Makarow
Professor
Biocenter Finland
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Christina Moberg
Professor
Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm
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Alexandru-Mihail Morega
Professor
Polytechnic University of Bucharest
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Susan Elizabeth Owens
Professor (Emerita)
University of Cambridge
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Nils-Eric Sahlin
Professor
Lund University
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Andrew Stirling
Professor
University of Sussex
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Jeroen P. van der Sluijs
Professor
University of Bergen & Utrecht University
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Dario Vretenar
Professor
University of Zagreb
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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.

What the report says

The 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.

Debate and impact

SAPEA’s work on science advice for policy will be presented and discussed at a range of events for researchers, policy-makers and the general public in 2019. The list below will be updated throughout the year.

EventsMedia coverageAcademic impact
European Research & Innovation Days
Our report will be discussed on 26 September during a panel debate at the European Research and  Innovation Days. The main findings of the report will be presented by the chair of the SAPEA working group Ortwin Renn. 
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Making sense of science- event in Oslo
SAPEA, Academia Europaea’s Bergen Knowledge Hub and the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters will host an event focusing on our recent report on science advice for policy. The event will take place on 4 November 2019 in Oslo, Norway. Renn. 
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Information will be added once it’s available.

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