First, it wanted to explore the opportunities and challenges involved with the development of policy-relevant evidence from the perspectives of researchers and practitioners. Researchers can play different roles in these debates, as pure scientists, as honest brokers, or as advocates. They can speak as individuals, or as part of scientific organizations. One major challenge they face is the response to expectations from the media, decision makers, and the public to provide new insights, policy recommendations based on predictions, or simple truths. Key note speakers and panelists addressed the use and abuse of evidence by the media and decision makers.
The second aim of the conference was to foster a much needed conversation between researchers, decision makers, journalists, and engaged citizens. We wanted speakers to explore how relevant actors communicate, and in which contexts, and what they expect from each other. These issues were addressed drawing on recent controversies from the UK and abroad, such as climate change, the economic crisis, and the badger cull.
There was a high level of interest both during the event, and afterwards through communications in the blogosphere (see a list of blogs here). One sticking point at the conference and in blog discussions is the nature of scientific knowledge (another being the role of researchers at the science policy interface). My colleague Philip Moriarty (physics) is sceptical about the claims of Sociologists and the Science and Technology studies (STS) literature, insisting that there is (or should be) disinterested investigation leading to objective facts, based on the scientific method.
At the conference, both Sheila Jasanoff and Roger Pielke Jr. argued that
The difference between science and regulatory science, between mode 1 and mode 2 of knowledge production, between normal and post-normal science, and between advocacy and honest brokering are topics which have crept up here on Klimazwiebel numerous times. It is good to see parts of the science community engaging in the debate. May the conversation continue!
Have a look at the various blog posts and comments. We seem to have initiated an important debate. If you feel there is some stereotyping going on you are not alone. But this is inevitable when starting a conversation across divides. Perhaps the time is right after the unproductive legacy of the science wars.