What is science policy?
Science policy involves the combination of scientific expertise with knowledge and understanding of government and policy making, decision making and scrutiny processes to ensure that legislation and policy have a sound evidence base.
Policy for science & science for policy
Science policy can be considered in two strands: policy for science and science for policy. The former involves ensuring that the appropriate landscape exists to allow effective research and includes issues of science funding, education, infrastructure and representation of disadvantaged groups. Science for policy involves making sure that the Government and other organisations are equipped with the appropriate scientific information when making policy decisions.
At the Royal Society of Biology, we are active in both of these areas.
Working in policy
Those who work in science policy act between research scientists and policy-makers and aim to identify and shuttle important and relevant information between the two communities. An element of translation involved; it is vital that the information is received using language and in a format that is understandable to the target audience.
Reacting & being proactive
Science policy work can take both reactive and proactive approaches. Reactive work can often involve responding to consultations issued from the Government and other organisations and serves to ensure that vital scientific information and the opinions of the scientific community are heard. The evidence provided is then used to inform policy decisions. Proactive policy work can involve highlighting key issues and striving to ensure that these are placed on and/or promoted up policy maker’s agendas.
Science policy sectors
Those who work in science policy can be found in a range of guises and in a variety of sectors - a reflection of the number of different areas where science has an influence in policy formulation. The Government, parliament, learned societies, charities, universities, campaigning groups, research institutes and non-governmental organisations are all examples of areas where those working in science policy can be found.
Engaging with science policy
The scientific advice that those in science policy are able to channel can only be as good as the information and feedback they receive. Thus engagement of the research community with science policy is vital. This can be done by working with those in science policy or by liaising directly with policymakers (e.g. parliamentarians).
Science policy reading list
- NERC ‘Science into Policy’ - A useful introduction and overview of the policy process.
- 'Future directions for scientific advice in Whitehall’ - A collection of essays on a wide range of policy issues, written by key people working in science policy.