INGSA @ Science Advice Under Pressure Conf: 27 – 28 April 2022

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Special Question-Time Debate Hosted By: The International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA) and the International Science Council (ISC)

If Covid-19 is the 9/11 moment for global science advice, what needs to happen next?

Places at the INGSA Side Event are limited.
For further information and registration, please contact:

INGSA PANEL: 14h00 – 15h30, Thursday 28 April, 2022: Rue Royal 250, 1210 Brussels

As the main conference concludes, this open debate unites delegates including politicians, chief science advisers, diplomats, researchers and science-interested citizens, to examine how scientific advice feeds into effective policymaking, or not. Their premise is that if the 9/11 attacks changed our lives from the perspective of state security, then Covid-19 must leave a similar legacy for the future of robust policymaking as a shared public good. Or must we accept the dumbing-down of ‘evidence’ and a ‘snapback to normal’ in our post-pandemic politics?


  • Moderator: Dr Dominique Leglu (France), Editor in Chief, La Recherche
  • Discussant & Organiser: Professor Rémi Quirion (Canada), Chief Scientist of Quebec & President, International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA)
  • Discussant & Organiser: Dr Mathieu Dennis (Canada), Acting CEO and Science Director, International Science Council (ISC)
  • Discussant: Professor Maria da Graça Carvalho (Portugal), Member of the European Parliament; former Minister of Science, Innovation and Higher Education; former Principal Adviser to the President of the European Commission in the fields of Science, Higher Education, Innovation, Research Policy, Energy, Environment and Climate Change.
  • Discussant: Professor Andrea Hinwood (Australia), Chief Scientist of the United Nations Environment Programme.
  • Discussant: Mr David Mair (United Kingdom / Belgium), Head of Unit, Science Advice to Policy, European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC)
  • Discussant: Professor David Budtz Pedersen (Danish), Professor of Science Communication and Impact Studies, Aalborg University & Director of the Humanomics Research Centre, Copenhagen
  • Discussant: Professor Roger Pielke Jr. (America), Professor of Environmental Studies, University of Colorado Boulder.
  • Discussant: Dr Carthage Smith (United Kingdom), Head of the Global Science Forum, OECD Secretariat.
  • Discussant: Professor Tarmo Soomere (Estonia), Chair of the European Science Advisers Forum (ESAF), President, Estonian Academy of Sciences.

For those believing in the integrity of science, recent years have been challenging. Information, correct and incorrect, spreads like a virus. For those believing in STI as the oxygen of democracy, recent weeks have been harrowing. The war in Ukraine demonstrates, more than ever, that the international science establishment stands stronger together. Speakers argue that open science and data have never been more critical. They underscore what is at stake in the relationship between science and policymaking. From the medicines we take to the education we provide, this relationship and the decisions it influences, matter immensely.

The panel unpicks how science and politics share common features. Both operate at the boundaries of knowledge and uncertainty, but approach problems differently. Scientists challenge assumptions, searching for empiric evidence to determine better options. Alternatively, politicians are often guided by the demands of voters and ideology. Speakers argue that a third force has come to the fore. Grass-roots citizens are no longer passive bystanders. The complex contradictions between evidence and ideology are in the public eye. The public want to have their voices heard and demand accountability. Speakers weigh-up how lawmakers navigate between the rights and responsibilities of individuals to look after themselves, and the rights and responsibilities of states to look after their citizens.

Scientific advances in managing the pandemic are generating enormous public interest in evidence-informed decision making. Practically every country has established a much-followed advisory body. Many scientists are now considered celebrities. Nevertheless, does this carrier-wave for citizen engagement and the opportunity to advance science and funding (€ trillions invested), not risk being derailed by the threat of science being viewed as a political force? 

Representing diverse international perspectives, guest discussants examine the pandemic’s legacy as an exemplifier of humanity’s inhumanities and interdependences. From vaccine equity and the fault-lines between rich and poor countries, the strength of international cooperation is being tested. Some societies profess intolerance for ‘inequality’, while providing and sometimes cherishing the legal and social structures that perpetuate and legitimatise it. Speakers address how civic freedoms, religious views, taxation, jobs, sectoral interests and culture all come into play.

Looking forward, the panel maps-out what reformed or new regional or global institutions are emerging or might be needed, where and why? How are new practices and tools such as digital technologies and AI reshaping the ‘profession’ of evidence-informed policymaking itself? What are the lessons and practices that must ‘stick’? INGSA, ISC and their partners’ shared goal is to continue open dialogues that champion the voice of increasingly better-informed citizens and civil society groups in helping co-produce knowledge and sound policy making.

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