Defining the Role of Science in Policymaking | Orvium

Policymaking is a complex and often controversial process that affects every aspect of our lives as it focuses, or at least should focus, on finding the best way to address societal problems and promote the common good. Science is crucial in this process, providing policymakers with the evidence and knowledge to make informed decisions. In this article, we will explore the role of science in policymaking and how it helps to shape our society.

What is Policymaking?

Policymaking is the process by which governments and other organizations decide how to address societal problems and promote the common good, and it involves many stakeholders, including politicians, experts, interest groups, and citizens.

The Importance of Evidence-Based Policymaking

Evidence-based policymaking is the use of scientific evidence to inform policy decisions. It is based on the idea that policy decisions should be grounded in empirical evidence rather than ideology, personal beliefs, or political expediency. Evidence-based policymaking has many benefits, including greater efficiency, better outcomes, and more transparent decision-making. However, it also has limitations, such as the potential for misinterpretation or manipulation of scientific evidence.

The Interaction Between Science and Policymaking

The relationship between science and policymaking is complex and multifaceted. Policymakers use scientific evidence to inform their decisions but must also consider other factors, such as economic, social, and political considerations. There are also challenges associated with integrating scientific evidence into policymaking, such as the difficulty of communicating scientific concepts to non-experts and the potential to misinterpret or ignore scientific evidence.

The Role of Scientific Research in Policymaking

Scientific research plays a crucial role in informing policymaking as it provides policymakers with the evidence and knowledge needed to make informed decisions. There are many different types of scientific research, including basic, applied, and translational research. However, there are also limitations and challenges associated with scientific research in policymaking, such as the potential for bias and the difficulty of researching complex societal problems.

Case Studies: The Role of Science in Policymaking

Case study 1: Climate change policymaking

The scientific community has warned for decades about climate change’s dangers and the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Policymakers have used this scientific evidence to develop policies and regulations to mitigate climate change impacts.

For instance, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international treaty that aims to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system. The treaty was informed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a scientific body that provides policymakers with regular assessments of the state of climate science.

In addition to international agreements, many countries have implemented domestic policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as renewable energy mandates, carbon taxes, and cap-and-trade systems. These policies are based on scientific evidence and seek to mitigate the impacts of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Case study 2: Healthcare policymaking

Another example is the development of policies and guidelines for the use of prescription drugs. Healthcare policymakers rely on scientific evidence to determine which drugs are safe and effective for patients’ use and establish guidelines for their use.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for example, is responsible for reviewing scientific data and approving prescription drugs in the United States. Before a drug can be approved, it must undergo a rigorous clinical trial process to demonstrate its safety and efficacy.

Once a drug is approved, healthcare policymakers use scientific evidence to develop guidelines for its use. These guidelines are based on scientific studies that evaluate the drug’s effectiveness and safety. For example, they may develop policies for which patients should receive the medication, how much of the drug should be prescribed, and how often it should be taken.

In addition, healthcare policymakers also rely on scientific evidence to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of prescription drugs. They use data from clinical trials and other studies to determine whether the benefits of a drug outweigh its costs and whether it is a cost-effective treatment option for patients.

Case study 3: Education policymaking

Last but not least, let’s take a look at the development of policies and guidelines for evidence-based teaching practices. Evidence-based teaching practices are instructional strategies that have been demonstrated through scientific research to be effective in promoting student learning and achievement.

Education policymakers use scientific evidence to develop guidelines for using evidence-based teaching practices. For example, they may develop guidelines for how teachers should structure classroom activities, assess student learning, and provide feedback to students.

In addition, education policymakers use scientific evidence to evaluate the effectiveness of educational programs and interventions. They use data from research studies to determine which programs and interventions are most effective in improving student outcomes, such as test scores and graduation rates.

One example of evidence-based teaching practice is the use of formative assessment. Formative assessment involves providing students with feedback on their learning throughout the learning process rather than just at the end of a unit or semester. Studies have shown that formative assessment can improve student learning and achievement.

How Open Science Can Influence Policymaking

By now, you should already know that open science promotes transparency and inclusivity and can increase the visibility and impact of specific issues. All these are essential for effective policymaking.

At Orvium, we’re big supporters of open science as we truly believe in its power to shape our future. If you want to learn more about how we support open science, make sure to visit our website and platform. And also, make sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, or Instagram to keep up with the latest news and product features.


Manuel Martin Marquez

Manuel led critical data-management, big data and ML initiatives at CERN. In addition, he has collaborated with NASA-JPL, Fermilab (U.S. Dept. of Energy) and GSI, among others.