the role of science and evidence in decision-making processes

I’m working on a couple of projects right now in which I’m trying to help policymakers effectively communicate complex science (involving drought, climate change, and water availability, but that goes without saying, right?) in political and policy processes. Paul Cairney suggests the constraints:

In debate, evidence is mentioned a lot, but only to praise the evidence backing my decision and rejecting yours. Or, you only trust the evidence from people you trust. If you trust the evidence from certain scientists, you stress their scientific credentials. If not, you find some from other experts. Or, if all else is lost, you reject experts as condescending elites with a hidden agenda. Or, you say simply that they can’t be that clever if they agree with smarmy Cameron/ Johnson.

Cairney’s writing here about Great Britain’s “Brexit” debate, but this generalizes.


  1. It generalizes strongly. A potential way around the ‘I’ll only quote those who agree with me’ is to build trust on the other side for evidence that seems to be crucial and is being ignored. Trust building and not hectoring seems to work. People have to decide to accept new facts and make these facts part of their own world view.
    A man jumped off a 100 story building. As he passed the second floor on his way to impact the ground, a woman asked how it was going.
    ‘OK, so far.’

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