Science Under Pressure Conference

Science Advisory Mechanism (SAM) & Science Advice for Policy by European Academies (SAPEA)
14h00 – 15h30, Thursday 28 April, 2022: Room 1, 1st Floor, NHow Hotel Rue Royal 250, Brussels.
Special Question-Time Debate Organised By: The International Network for Governmental Science Advice (INGSA) & The International Science Council (ISC)


As the main conference concludes, this open debate unites delegates including politicians, chief science advisers, diplomats, researchers and science-interested citizens, to examine how scientific advice feeds into effective policymaking, or not. Their premise is that if the 9/11 attacks changed our lives from the perspective of state security, then Covid-19 must leave a similar legacy for the future of robust policymaking as a shared public good. Or must we accept the dumbing-down of ‘evidence’ and a ‘snapback to normal’ in our post-pandemic politics?

For those believing in the integrity of science, recent years have been challenging. Information, correct and incorrect, spreads like a virus. For those believing in STI as the oxygen of democracy, recent weeks have been harrowing. The war in Ukraine demonstrates, more than ever, that the international science establishment stands stronger together. Speakers argue that open science and data have never been more critical. They underscore what is at stake in the relationship between science and policymaking. From the medicines we take to the education we provide, this relationship and the decisions it influences, matter immensely.

The panel unpicks how science and politics share common features. Both operate at the boundaries of knowledge and uncertainty, but approach problems differently. Scientists challenge assumptions, searching for empiric evidence to determine better options. Alternatively, politicians are often guided by the demands of voters and ideology. Speakers argue that a third force has come to the fore. Grass-roots citizens are no longer passive bystanders. The complex contradictions between evidence and ideology are in the public eye. The public want to have their voices heard and demand accountability. Speakers weigh-up how lawmakers navigate between the rights and responsibilities of individuals to look after themselves, and the rights and responsibilities of states to look after their citizens.

Scientific advances in managing the pandemic are generating enormous public interest in evidence-informed decision making. Practically every country has established a much-followed advisory body. Many scientists are now considered celebrities. Nevertheless, does this carrier-wave for citizen engagement and the opportunity to advance science and funding (€ trillions invested), not risk being derailed by the threat of science being viewed as a political force?

Representing diverse international perspectives, guest discussants examine the pandemic’s legacy as an exemplifier of humanity’s inhumanities and interdependences. From vaccine equity and the fault-lines between rich and poor countries, the strength of international cooperation is being tested. Some societies profess intolerance for ‘inequality’, while providing and sometimes cherishing the legal and social structures that perpetuate and legitimatise it. Speakers address how civic freedoms, religious views, taxation, jobs, sectoral interests and culture all come into play.

Looking forward, the panel maps-out what reformed or new regional or global institutions are emerging or might be needed, where and why? How are new practices and tools such as digital technologies and AI reshaping the ‘profession’ of evidence-informed policymaking itself? What are the lessons and practices that must ‘stick’? INGSA, ISC and their partners’ shared goal is to continue open dialogues that champion the voice of increasingly better-informed citizens and civil society groups in helping co-produce knowledge and sound policy making.

Aidan Gilligan Irish Flag Panel Curator:
{modal index.php/aidan-gilligan-ceo-scicom-making-sense-of-science}Aidan Gilligan{/modal} (IRL):
CEO, SciCom – Making Sense of Science.
Dr Dominique Leglu French Flag Moderator:
Dr Dominique Leglu (France):
Editor in Chief, La Recherche
Professor Rémi Quirion Canadian Flag Discussant & Organiser:
Professor Rémi Quirion (Canada):
Chief Scientist of Quebec & President, International Network for Governmental Science Advice (INGSA).
Dr Mathieu Denis Canadian Flag Discussant & Organiser:
Dr Mathieu Denis (Canada):
Acting CEO and Science Director, International Science Council (ISC).
Professor Maria da Graça Carvalho Portugese Flag Discussant:
Professor Maria da Graça Carvalho (Portugal):
Member of the European Parliament; former Minister of Science, Innovation and Higher Education; former Principal Adviser to the President of the European Commission in the fields of Science, Higher Education, Innovation, Research Policy, Energy, Environment and Climate Change.
Professor Andrea Hinwood Australian Flag Discussant:
Professor Andrea Hinwood (Australia):
Chief Scientist of the United Nations Environment Programme.
Dr Isayvani Naicker South African Flag Discussant:
Dr Isayvani Naicker (South Africa):
Director of Strategy and Partnerships at the African Academy of Sciences (AAS).
David Mair UK Flag Discussant:
David Mair (United Kingdom & Belgium):
Head of Unit, Science Advice to Policy, European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC).
Professor David Budtz Pedersen Danish Flag Discussant: Evidence-based policy-making versus policy-biased evidence-making – why the Cape Town Declaration 2021 matters
{modal index.php/prof-david-budtz-pedersen}Prof. David Budtz Pedersen{/modal} (DK):
Professor of Science Communication and Impact Studies, Aalborg University & Director of the Humanomics Research Centre, Copenhagen.
Professor Roger Pielke Jr. USA Flag Discussant:
Professor Roger Pielke Jr. (America):
Professor of Environmental Studies, University of Colorado Boulder.
David Mair Estonian Flag Discussant:
Professor Tarmo Soomere (Estonia):
Chair of the European Science Advisers Forum (ESAF), President, Estonian Academy of Sciences.

Left to right: Professor Tarmo Soomere, Professor Rémi Quirion, Dr Dominique Leglu, Professor David Budtz Pedersen, Dr Isayvani Naicker, Professor Maria da Graça Carvalho, Dr Mathieu Denis, Professor Andrea Hinwood, Professor Roger Pielke Jr., David Mair