By Duncan Mboyah

The lack of dedicated science advisory systems is responsible for the slow adoption of science in policy, scientists and policy makers say at the 5th International Network for Governmental Science Advice (INGSA) conference in Kigali, Rwanda.

The delegates said that scientific advice is essential to debate, scrutiny, and law-making in all legislatures, yet most countries do not have effective advisory systems.

They observed that research and practice on legislative science advice has primarily focused on legislatures with substantial human and monetary resources.

Denis Naughten, Chairperson, Working Group on Science and Technology at the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Ireland said that a dedicated effort is needed to identify the common challenges and opportunities for science advice in less well-resourced legislatures.

Naughten said that information and scientific evidence have economic value hence the need to push them to legislatures for adoption.

He said that with proper advice, scientific research journals ought to be free of charge to benefit countries that are unable to conduct their own research.

Data, he said, should be openly available globally and not protected to benefit countries especially in the global south where qualified science-policy is lacking.

Chris Tyler, Associate Professor, science policy and knowledge infrastructure, Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP), UCL – United Kingdom said that there is a need to hire qualified science-policy intermediaries to push evidence into parliamentary processes.

Tyler observed that it is unfortunate that 90 percent of countries do not have science units in their legislature.

He said that the United Kingdom has taken many years to grapple with the issues of providing scientific advice to legislatures.

Tyler noted that developing countries that have under-resourced legislatures need to explore a potential range of options for solving problems in the near and long term.

“There is an urgent need to develop a pool of scientists in all fields to help intensify changes at policy level,” he added.

Prof. Remi Quirion, President of INGSA and also the Chief Scientific Officer of Quebec urged universities to start training scientists how they can speak with policy makers.

Prof. Quirion noted that it is important that scientists know how to deliver their messages to policy makers to help create lasting change in society.

He recommended that to help bridge the gap, young scientists who are graduating with Master and philosophy degrees should be supported to work within government for a few years to help change the thinking around science.

“This will offer them an opportunity to know each other early and be able to reach them with ease as they try to push for a public agenda,” Prof. Quirion added.

He advised developing countries to start employing qualified science policy intermediaries to help them communicate with policy makers.

Prof. Quirion said that scientific advice needs to be scientifically credible, politically legitimate, and relevant to the needs of policymakers.

The scientists and policy makers observed that the increasing climate change on health, heat waves, extreme weather events, and increases in communicable and non-communicable diseases require proper science in policy papers.