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

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.

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