The context and environment in which scientists and policymakers work continually increase in complexity. Scientists are expected to provide options and solutions to a wide variety of challenges. Meanwhile, policymakers are expected to understand and assess a growing range of knowledge on cross-cutting issues and to translate this knowledge into effective, efficient and robust policies. Furthermore, there is growing research to show that health, illness and diseases are not just about biology. There are many other contextual, historical and anthropological considerations involved, requiring interdisciplinary collaboration.
But how do we approach collaboration with the policy sector?
The American Association of Advancement in Science’s (AAAS) third president, Alexander Dallas Bache said:
The theme for AAAS’s 2018 annual meeting was Advancing Science: Discovery to Application. The meeting highlighted the critical roles of academia, government, and industry in moving ideas into innovations. It is no surprise that navigating the intersection of science and policy-making was heavily featured in the discussion.
Sir Peter Gluckman, the Chief Science Officer to the Prime Minister of New Zealand and a featured speaker at the meeting summarized what he thought are important realities that all scientists and researchers must keep in mind when approaching the policy sector:
His advice to scientists and researchers:
Our friends at Knowledge Nudge also offered a few valuable tips on engaging policymakers in health research, including:
Their tips also support the growing value of evidence synthesis in the policy-making process:
Knowledge changes with science over time. This is why evidence synthesis is so important. Not only does synthesis compile evidence-based recommendations for policymakers, but it also identifies the strength of the available evidence. The use of weak evidence is best highlighted when time proves that science and policy got it wrong the first time. A current example: our shift from strict low-fat diet adherence to recommendations around the importance of fat for brain and body function. Come back next time to learn about how the environment for the long-lasting beliefs around low-fat diets emerged, how that myth was recently busted, and what it means for public trust in science and scientist relationships with decision-makers.
Have you tangoed on the dance floor of science and policy?
What were some valuable lessons learnt?
Until next time!
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The Alberta SPOR SUPPORT Unit operates on and acknowledges the lands that are the traditional and ancestral territory of many peoples, presently subject to Treaties 6, 7, and 8. Namely: the Blackfoot Confederacy – Kainai, Piikani, and Siksika – the Cree, Dene, Saulteaux, Nakota Sioux, Stoney Nakoda, and the Tsuu T’ina Nation and the Métis People of Alberta. This includes the Métis Settlements and the Métis Nation of Alberta. We acknowledge the many First Nations, Métis and Inuit who have lived in and cared for these lands for generations. We make this acknowledgment as a reaffirmation of our shared commitment towards reconciliation, and as part of AbSPORU’s mandate towards fostering health system transformation.