Science Advising in the Government

The Forum on Physics and Society has a couple of articles on science advising, including one from John Morgan called ‘Practice and Pitfalls of Science Advising in the Government’. He discusses his experiences as a science advisor and gives some insight into the kinds of challenges faced in that career.

Here are a couple of excerpts:

In every part of the government, inconvenient truths are everywhere. The scientist is often in the position of undermining established wisdom of every type across the ideological spectrum. In this sense, science and technology are inherently subversive, especially in the government, which is run by interests, relationships, and politics, not objective data.

To be effective, especially in the long term, the scientist must abandon self-righteousness and ideology. The scientific community has done a poor job in this regard in recent years and has unnecessarily alienated policy-makers, especially among conservatives. Interdisciplinary collaboration is important in this regard. With respect to policy development, the hard sciences can benefit from a close relationship with social science, especially those who work in economics and evaluation research. Scientific evidence must encompass the human and social impact of policy and practice, not just the cold numbers of physical science.

 

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