Science advice

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Science advice is the process, structures and institutions through which governments and politicians consider science, technology and innovation information in policy- and decision- making. Across different national governments and international bodies, there are a variety of structures and institutions for scientific advice. They reflect distinctive cultures and traditions of decision-making, which Sheila Jasanoff has termed the ‘civic epistemology’[1] through which expert claims are constructed, validated or challenged in a given society.

Science advice can also be called "science for policy," indicating the flow of information from scientific to policy domains with the intention of informing decisions. This is distinct from "policy for science," the institutions, rules and norms governing how science is funded, conducted, and communicated.

At the national level, countries have diverse models for how to connect scientists and policymakers. In some countries, the president of the National academy, an elected organization of distinguished researchers in natural and social sciences, engineering, medicine, and the humanities, serves as a government science advisor, while other countries have an advisory committee or civil servants perform this role.[2] National academies are often commissioned to write reports advising government on the state of scientific knowledge to inform policy-relevant questions, such as the risk from chemicals or disease.

Other countries, such as the UK, have a wide range of sources of expert scientific advice which draw on several of these sources.[3]

At the international level, there is an increasing movement to bring together national science advisors to share best practices and form a network to deal with global challenges (e.g., pandemics, climate change). The first global Science Advice to Governments meeting was held in Auckland, New Zealand on August 27–28, 2014. This meeting brought together high-level science advisors, scientists, and practitioners to discuss the relationship between science and policy.[4] A new network of European science academies was established at the European Open Science meeting in Copenhagen in June 2014,[2] which now includes 20 countries.[5]

The International Council for Science (ICSU) is a major international organization with a program in science for policy.[6]

Science advice structures[edit]

A briefing paper,[3] described four of the most commonly used science advice structures for jurisdictions: advisory councils, advisory committees, national academies, and chief scientific advisors. These structures are most commonly employed at the national level, but may also be used in sub-national jurisdictions like Quebec, or supra-national bodies like the European Commission, which has an in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre.

Science advice also occurs at sub-national levels, where structures may include departmental scientific advisors (for example, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and at the international level, where networks such as the International Council for Science coordinate science for policy, for example through serving as the science voice in the United Nations.

For any of these structures, individual experts may be asked for advice in specific circumstances.

Science Advice Structure[3] Explanation[3]
Advisory councils Many economies have a high-level council for science (or science and innovation) policy. Members typically include senior scientists, alongside representatives of industry, higher education and civil society. Examples include Japan’s Council for Science, Technology and Innovation (CSTI) and the US President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). Another example is Australia, where chief scientist Ian Chubb established the Commonwealth Science Council to advise the government on policy. However, in most systems, the focus of such entities remains on policy advice in relation to the science system, which is distinct from science advice for public policy.
Advisory committees Most governments also rely on an array of specialized scientific and expert committees, which can address detailed technical and regulatory issues in areas such as health, environment and food safety. For example, the US and Japan have hundreds of such committees; the UK has over seventy.
National academies A growing number of national academies are active in science policy and/or policy for science. In economies such as Canada, China, Germany, Netherlands, South Africa, US and UK, academies are an important source of scientific advice. Furthermore, networks of national academies such as the International Council for Science, with a membership of 121 national bodies, representing 141 economies, and 31 International Scientific Unions, and the Inter-Academy Panel, the global network of science academies from 107 economies are actively involved in science for policy processes at the international level.
Chief scientific advisors The first chief scientific advisor was appointed by the US in 1957, followed by the UK in 1964. The first chief scientific advisor in Quebec, Canada, was appointed in 2011.

Science advice by jurisdiction (nation-state, sub-national jurisdictions, and supra-national bodies)[edit]

Jurisdiction National Science Advice Structure/s[3] Chief Advisors/Key institutions
Austria National academy Austrian Academy of Sciences
Canada Advisory council

• The Science, Technology and Innovation Council[7]

Canada National academy The Royal Society of Canada

Council of Canadian Academies

Canada Chief Science Advisors National: Chief Science Advisor

• Quebec chief scientist: Remi Quirion[8]

Chile National academy and National Congress Library Chilean Science Academy Science and technology in Chile
Denmark National academy Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters
European Union National academies and Chief Science Advisors Scientific Advice Mechanism
France National academy French Academy of Sciences
Ireland National academy Royal Irish Academy Royal Irish Academy
Ireland Chief science advisors Mark Ferguson[9]
United States of America National academy National Academy of Sciences
United States of America Chief Science Advisors Science Advisor to the President
United Kingdom National Academy The Royal Society[10]
United Kingdom Chief Science Advisors National: Government Chief Scientific Adviser

• Departmental science advisors are listed online.[11]

Portugal National Academy Academia das Ciências de Lisboa
New Zealand National Academy Royal Society of New Zealand[12]
New Zealand Chief scientific Advisor Prof Juliet Gerrard [13]
Greece National Academy Academy of Athens
Germany National Academy German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina [14]

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)

Cuba National Academy Academia de Ciencias de Cuba
Cuba Chief Science Advisors Castro Díaz-Balart
Australia National Academy Australian Academy of Science
Australia Chief Science Advisors National: Alan Finkel[15]

• NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, Hugh F. Durrant-Whyte[16]

• QLD Chief Scientist, incumbent suspended[17]

• SA Chief Scientist, Caroline McMillen[18]

• VIC Lead Scientist, Amanda Caples[19]

• Chief Scientist of WA, Peter Klinken[20]

Australia State government science agency The NSW Office of Environment & Heritage, with Dr. Kate Wilson[21]

Western Australia Office of science[22]

Kenya National Academy Kenya National Academy of Sciences
Kenya Chief Science Advisors Shaukat A. Abdulrazak
Malaysia National Academy Academy of Sciences Malaysia
Malaysia Chief Science Advisors Zakri Abdul Hamid
China National Academy Chinese Academy of Sciences

Chinese Academy of Social SciencesChinese Academy of Engineering

Finland Advisory Council The Council of Finnish Academies
India National Academy Indian National Science Academy
Italy National Academy L'Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei
Japan Advisory Council Council for Science Technology and Innovation (CSTI)[23]
Mongolia National Academy Mongolian Academy of Sciences
Sweden National Academy The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences[24]
Switzerland National Academy The Swiss Academy of Sciences
South Korea National Academy National Academy of Sciences, Republic of Korea
South Africa National Academy Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf)[25]
El Salvador National Academy Viceministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología[26]
Thailand Advisory Council National Research Council of Thailand[27]


  1. ^ Ezrahi, Yaron (2008-05-07). "Controlling Biotechnology: Science, Democracy and 'Civic Epistemology'". Metascience. 17 (2): 177–98. doi:10.1007/s11016-008-9201-6.
  2. ^ a b Wilsdon, James; Allen, Kristiann; Paulavets, Katsia (2014-08-27). "A rough guide to science advice | Science". The guardian. Retrieved 2015-05-31.
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  7. ^ "Home". STIC. Retrieved 2015-05-31.
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  10. ^ "Royal Society". Retrieved 2015-05-31.
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  18. ^ "New Chief Scientist for South Australia". Steven Marshall | Premier of South Australia. 2018-08-13. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
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  21. ^ "OEH divisions and groups". NSW Environment & Heritage. 2015-01-12. Retrieved 2015-05-31.
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