Science Advice in Denmark and the Nordic Countries

Organized jointly by Aalborg University (AAU) and the International Network for Government Science Advice Held on 26-27 April, 2017, at The Carlsberg Academy, Gamle Carlsberg Vej 15, 1799 Copenhagen V


Introduction

For years, controversies over scientific expertise have continued to permeate public discourse and policy-making. Responding to the increasingly complex nature of societal challenges and the need for timely and robust scientific advice, this conference explores mechanisms and best practices for translating scientific knowledge into policy-making. The conference brings together key international experts to share best practices and perspectives on science advice to governments. In more and more fields, there is an urgent need for scientists to provide input into policy e.g. in terms of evidence, possible solutions, impact and risk assessment. From climate change to cybersecurity, from pandemics to vaccines, from food production to infrastructure, the need for sound policy-advice and public communication of research continues to multiply.

At the same time, the authority and legitimacy of scientific experts are under scrutiny, particularly in areas marked by controversy, such as climate change, genetically modified crops and health intervention. Scientific experts are regularly confronted by think-tanks, citizen groups, social media and individuals who have access to an abundance of verified and unverified information and who are able to mobilize advocacy groups and counter-evidence. Contemporary liberal democracies are approaching a “post-factual world” in which science-informed policy-making is increasingly challenged. Facts and norms, science and politics, permeate each other in numerous ways that makes it difficult for policy-makers and experts to reclaim authority. At the same time, group dynamics such as polarization and infostorms have ramifications for the ability of public authorities and advisers to communicate scientific expertise in the face of public controversies.

Participants at the conference will be asked to contribute actively to discussions of the issue of governmental science advice. Inspiration for the discussions at the workshop will be provided by the International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA) and presentations by key Danish and Scandinavian institutions. The goal of the conference is to create a dialogue between advisers, experts and practitioners to share models and lessons. Without platforms that connect practitioners of science advice with decision-makers, funding agencies, and universities there will be no real progress in conveying science advice to governments. Key themes to be explored at the workshop include

  1. The importance of recognising the societal contexts in which science is undertaken and applied;
  2. The value of involving policy-makers and publics in shaping the questions that science can help answer;
  3. The need for collaboration among scientists, public authorities and civil society to advance the accountability and transparency of knowledge brokering.

The aim of the conference is to explore and discuss enablers and barriers of science advice to governments and authorities in Denmark and the Nordic Countries. Speakers will give their views and perspectives on the topic seen through the lens of prior work in the area. Danish and Nordic stakeholders will have the opportunity to learn first-hand about (1) framework conditions for science advice, (2) best practices of science advice in public health and social policy, and (3) ways to enrich and integrate local science advisory systems in public policy-making.

Key takeaways from the conference will be summarized in a subsequent workshop report from The Humanomics Research Centre, which will be published in the autumn of 2017.