Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Science and policy: a two-way street

An exchange of words between an imminent economist and a policy maker from an insightful article on the The Oil Drum.

The economist:
Jeffrey Sachs, economic advisor to the UN, in his recently published article, Fixing the Broken Government Policy Process , articulates four manifestations of the breakdown in Washington:
1. Inability to focus beyond the next election
2. Decisions are made through negotiations with those who will be funding the next election (i.e. industry lobbyists)
3. Technical expertise is ignored or bypassed
4. The public is largely excluded from the process

The policy maker:
From Debbie Cook former Mayor and Councilmember of Huntington Beach, CA from 2000-2008 and a US Congressional Candidate; here is my prescription for scientists, professors, and engineers:
1. Participate in the public discourse
2. Publicly challenge your peers who put forward junk science
3. Be mindful of fallacies in your own assumptions
4. Relationships are primary and every policy is derived primarily from relationships, not facts.
To each critic sitting in their ivory tower, I challenge you to create the conditions for these relationships to flourish.

An important way to bridge the science-policy gap is to build relationships and to communicate facts and alternatives in a concise way. Talking about a clash of cultures!

See also earlier blogpost: Policies for a complex and dynamic world

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