University of Sussex
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Making sense of science under conditions of complexity and uncertainty

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posted on 2023-06-10, 05:23 authored by Andrew StirlingAndrew Stirling, Ortwin Renn, Susan Owens, Sarah de Rijcke, Alan Irwin, Jeroen van der Sluijs
Science advice to today’s policymakers has become more prominent than ever, due primarily to the growing human impact on our world, and the everincreasing complexity of the knowledge needed for coping with economic, social and environmental challenges. These include demographic changes, global trade issues, international market structures, transboundary pollution, digitalisation, urbanisation and many other factors of modern life. Many such policy problems are characterised by a mixture of complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity. The issues for which scientific input is most needed by policymakers are the ones for which the science is most often complex, multidisciplinary and incomplete. Scientific expertise supports effective policymaking by providing the best available knowledge, which can then be used to understand a specific problem, generate and evaluate policy options, and provide meaning to the discussion around critical topics within society. Scientific knowledge is crucial to ensuring that systematic evidence is part of the collective decisionmaking process. Systematic knowledge is instrumental to understanding phenomena, providing insights that help to understand and tackle society’s problems. Science therefore represents an essential element in Europe’s future development of policy. The nature of science advice is wide-ranging. The science advisory ecosystem includes a broad set of players, from individual academics to national academies, universities, think tanks and many others. Their roles include knowledge generation, synthesis, brokering, policy evaluation, horizon scanning and more. In the vast majority of policy cases, scientific advice is only one of many inputs but it occupies a unique position, as summarised below and in the report.


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European Commission

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  • SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit Publications

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