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POST POST - An office of both Houses of Parliament providing MPs and Peers with independent, balanced and accessible analysis of research evidence related.

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Presentation on theme: "POST POST - An office of both Houses of Parliament providing MPs and Peers with independent, balanced and accessible analysis of research evidence related."— Presentation transcript:

1 POST POST - An office of both Houses of Parliament providing MPs and Peers with independent, balanced and accessible analysis of research evidence related to public policy issues

2 Two chambers House of Commons –650 elected Members (MPs) –Each represents a constituency House of Lords –Not representative –Approx. 830 Peers in total –86% Life Peers, 11% Hereditary Peers, 3% Bishops The UK Parliament

3 ‘The Executive’ Is formed by the party or coalition with the most seats in the House of Commons. In 2010: Source: Wikipedia The Government (1)

4 The Prime Minister appoints Government Ministers (~120) from Commons and Lords Key elements of government: –Developing and implementing policy –Drafting legislation The Government (2)

5 ‘The Legislature’ –Makes laws –Scrutinises the wider work of government through the select committee system –Debates topical issues –MPs represent constituents and raise constituency issues with ministers and departments. Parliament

6 Much of what Parliament scrutinises has a science basis, although this is not widely recognised by many parliamentarians Most parliamentarians are not scientists and do not have the understanding to scrutinise evidence systematically Parliament has structures to assist MPs and peers in scrutiny of government policy and legislation, including the Science and Environment Section of the HoC Library and POST. June 2011 Science and Parliament

7 S&T in Parliament

8 Submitting Evidence to Select Committees

9 Covers wide range of policy areas (transport, defence, science, environment, economics, statistics) Provides information services for MPs & their staff E.g. HoC Science and Environment Section Work is mainly responsive: –Answering MPs’ requests for information –Preparing explanatory summaries of Bills –Publish economic indicators, unemployment statistics, etc. Work is largely determined by the legislative programme & MPs’ interests 9 House of Commons Library

10 The point at which Government and parliamentarians are most receptive to evidence is at the green paper consultation stage. It becomes progressively more difficult moving from the white paper to a legislative bill, and by the second reading most MPs and Peers will adhere to party positions. Slide 10 Evidence and Legislation

11 Recent Acts of Parliament include: Marine and Coastal Access Act 2010 – the requirement to designate of an ecologically coherent network of MCZs still causing issues. Floods and Water Act 2010 – implemented various aspects of ‘Making Space for Water’, implementation of the National Standards for Sustainable Urban Drainage still causing problems. The Growth and Infrastructure 2013 Act covered the provision or use of infrastructure and its development in the planning system (which will impact on biodiversity). Legislation in relation to HS2, which will affect a significant amount of ancient woodland. Ecological Science in Legislation

12 Government Departmental Chief Scientific Advisers Government Chief Scientific Adviser Scientific Advisory Councils Departmental research Other research EngineeringStatisticsScience Social research Economics Evidence and Government

13 Policy Science Advisers Individuals that work at the science policy interface attempt to transform scientific evidence into ‘usable knowledge’, often through ‘expert judgement’ without clear links to the evidence. At present there is a mismatch between the broad complex questions posed by policy and narrow reductionist questions answer by scientific studies Transdisciplinary collaborative approaches that include policymakers and stakeholders in framing questions can provide a better evidence base. But science will always influence policy and policy will always influence science, including what is considered valid evidence.

14 In theory, evidence underpins each stage of policy formation. Evidence Assurance and assessment of uncertainty/risk are key parts of the process. Different types of evidence most effective at different points of the cycle, with evaluation of complex outcomes currently a key area of concern for Whitehall Departments (ESRC is proposing to fund a Complex Evaluation Centre). Defra has a committee to evaluate if policies are sufficiently evidence informed. Evidence Informed Policy

15 The Actual Policy Cycle...

16 Policy Cycle Complex, Incomplete & Uncertain There will be no single scientific answer for complex areas of policy, as science thrives on dissent (rather consensus) and the evolution of ideas and is unlikely to provide any definitive answers. This lack of definitive answers is not just a result of uncertainty, but because uncertainty is usually over emphasised whilst being underspecified as to what sort of uncertainty (referred to as ‘incertitude’ by some commentators). Uncertainty can range from difficulties in quantifying risk, ignorance about the system in question to ambiguities about what is the nature of the problem being addressed. Even if the a consensus on the science can be reached, as arguably the IPCC is attempting to achieve, this will not settle the policy – the science underpinning regulation will always be contested for economic and ideological reasons. This is desirable in political democracies and the intricate intertwining of science and policy is not inherently a ‘bad thing’.

17 MPs (and Ministers) have to respond the concerns of constituents even if they are not evidence based. Winter 2013/14 the wettest in more than 100 years, with rainfall concentrated in the upland areas draining into the Somerset levels. Evidence clearly suggests natural flood management measures to slow the flow and reduces erosion of soil (and hence siltation) in the upper part of catchment is most effective; but with climate change flooding is inevitable. Difficult discussions about the future of land use in the catchment are inevitable but politically unappetising. Politics is Not the Same as Policy

18 Slide 18 Incorporating Values Knowledge transfer on its own to either the public or policymakers is ineffective, for knowledge to be credible it has to be part of a two way dialogue that incorporates societal values.

19 Political Consensus High Weight of Scientific Evidence Low Evidence only changes policy here More and More Evidence

20 Post Normal Science

21 Even scientists are guilty of cherry picking and selective bias – systematic approaches. “Scientists advise and Ministers decide” – scientists should be knowledge brokers for evidence not advocates if they want to influence policy. Other factors must also be considered too, for example: –Cost implications –Ethics and morals –Public acceptability –Party political views My Evidence is Better Than Your Evidence

22 Experts can make judgements about uncertainties and evidence gaps in relation to the likely outcome of policy alternatives through modelling and scenarios. ‘No regrets’ policy measures under most possible future scenarios are usually considered to be the most resilient However, what the most desirable outcomes are is a matter of political choice as is the degree of risk of an undesirable outcome that should be taken – always communicate what you know and don’t know clearly. The UK government guidelines on the use of scientific advice in policy states “the use of evidence is essential and scientists, engineers and policymakers must also ensure that they include evidence of any differing perspectives of risk as part of any decision making process”. In situations where there is a lack of consensus on desirable outcomes, polarised debates may occur (GM, climate change etc.), but more certainty is unlikely to help as it is about values. “Science is a history of corrected mistakes” Addressing Uncertainty

23 Integrated Assessment Frameworks for dealing with uncertainty Variability Inherent randomness of nature (non-linearities) Diversity of values held by people Variation in human behaviour (non-rational) Technological surprises (GM, Biofuels) Limited Knowledge Measurement error Limited knowledge due to lack of measurements Immeasurable phenomena (tipping points?) Conflicting evidence Reduceable ignorance (might “get it” in the future) Irreduceable ignorance (no chance ! Modified from Raffaelli et al (2009) Valuation of Biodiversity - A NERC scoping study

24 Lots of Other Ways of Dealing with Uncertainty

25 What form should the evidence briefing take? Choose timing and place carefully. Can you condense what you want to say into 5 simple points? Explain why the issue is relevant to the audience, and why it is important now. Science alone is not enough — focus on the impacts on people. Always present (or at least summarise) the evidence for your argument. It is usually possible to find some evidence to support any view. Therefore the weight or majority of evidence is crucial Avoid emotive language; be objective and let the science speak for itself. Some ‘Good Practice’ Tips

26 Is concise Has a clear structure and narrative –Overview (relevance, timeliness, main issues) –Clear signposting to aid scanning Doesn’t assume to much prior knowledge Minimises jargon and acronyms Is impartial and balanced (peer review) Highlights where is there consensus and where there is ongoing debate Is clear about sources of scientific uncertainty Some ‘Good Practice’ Tips


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