Tag Archives: science education for politicians

Science public engagement with policy makers—an idea for the Canadian scene?

Athene Donald’s Nov. 2, 2012 posting on Occam’s Corner (hosted by the Guardian) points out that scientists aren’t the only ones who need to engage, policy makers should try it too  (Note: I have removed links),

Recently the UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has been consulting on its Science and Society programme, and I for one have fed my thoughts back to their team. On their web pages they also detail the progress they have made against previous objectives, set up a couple of years ago. Progress on some fronts is good, particularly in the way interactions with the media are progressing. Nevertheless, there are hints in the text implying unhealthy mental separation of different groupings. For example, language relating to how “we”, that is the scientists, are expected to engage with “you”, the public, might perhaps benefit from closer scrutiny. There are also some notable omissions of people who don’t seem to be expected to participate in engagement very much at all, notably “them” – those who set the agenda at the centre of power, comprising MP’s, civil servants and policy-makers in general. [emphases mine]

She’s suggesting engagement between scientists and policy makers, not engagement between the public, scientists, and policy makers. Personally, I’d like to see the latter take place, as well as, the former. Donald also goes on to reiterate her support for another suggestion,  (Note: I have removed links),

Nor does success, according to BIS, contain any mention of the suggestion, made by Adam Afriyie (then shadow Science Minister) before the last election, that MPs should get remedial science lessons. To quote my own MP and erstwhile colleague in Physics at the University of Cambridge, Dr Julian Huppert shortly after election as an MP in 2010, who said à propos of this:

“It would be really important for all MPs to have some exposure, because some of them will not have studied any science since they were 15 and it’s important to understand how to engage with it. You would then have a lot of MPs who were able to understand the information they were being presented with.”

Donald’s comments remind me of Preston Manning’s suggestions about Canadian scientists needing to engage more with politicians.  Luckily, Mr. Manning very kindly gave me an interview about those suggestions and more, ‘Preston Manning Interview (part 1 of 2) and PEN’s nanotechnology product inventory‘ and ‘Preston Manning Interview (part 2 of 2); Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies Events; ASTC Conference‘ in September 2009. That year, the first Canadian Science Policy Conference was held. Next week (Nov. 5-7, 2012) will see the fourth conference in Calgary, Alberta where Mr. Manning is scheduled to speak on this panel, ‘What is the appropriate division of labour between business, government, and the academy in advancing science-based innovation in Canada?’