Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I'll take a side order of science with that policy please

In an opinion piece of the Ottawa Citizen that came out yesterday, there is a rant about the lack of scientific method in the decision making process of politicians. The piece was written by our own Dr. Findlay, two-fingered typist extraordinaire, as he proposes a four step plan:

"What is the solution? First, those responsible for administrative decision-making need to be far better schooled in the scientific method. Think of it as analysis, a means by which we can unite our non-scientific egos and scientific ids. Many public institutions invest considerable sums in language training for senior decision-makers: Is it too much to ask that some resources be allocated to scientific method training?

Second, we need to reinvest in government science capacity. The past several decades have witnessed a dramatic loss of science capacity at all levels of government. This erosion cannot be mitigated by planting more scientific groundcover on the shoreline of academia. Government science must address itself largely to the quest for solutions to current or anticipated problems, or the documentation of such problems in the first instance, whereas academia is -- as it should be -- the wellspring of curiosity-driven research.

Third, we need to vaccinate science against political pathogens. Jacob Bronowski observed that no science is totally immune from political infection, and this holds doubly true for government science: If it cannot be immunized, it must quarantined through appropriate governance structures.

Fourth, we need to enhance the dialogue between the scientific and policy processes. The loss of science capacity means that much of the science required for sound public policy and administrative decision-making is external."


Bayman said...

I have to say I've been highly impressed by the level of general education and scientific literacy here in England. Even the letters to the editor of the daily newspapers can often read like a science journal article. Why the difference I don't know, but maybe it has to do with the education system in general.