Evidence for policy-making: Foresight-based scientific advice

25-03-2021

The implementation of foresight routines will help in preparing future policies. Evidence-based foresight practices will ensure that policy-making is trustworthy and future-fit. This paper is partly inspired by the evidence-related policy issues encountered in managing the coronavirus outbreak. The Covid 19 crisis was, and remains, characterised by uncertainties and evidence that change by the hour through progressive insight. Policy-makers had to make decisions that balanced expert advice and presumed feasibility and public acceptance. Additionally, new virus- and vaccine-related evidence meant they had – and continue to have to – constantly review measures, in these exceptional times of uncertainties and evolution of insight, when experts' advice was occasionally inconsistent. This briefing first details the role of evidence in the policy ecosystem, with separate sections regarding science for policy and science- and technology-related policy. Subsequently, an evidence-based mechanism is suggested for rapid response during crises or emergencies. The paper concludes with four practical tips for trustworthy policy analysis: (i) seeing the broader picture; (ii) exploring possible biases; (iii) examining the policy issue from different perspectives; and (iv) stress-testing policy options by widely assessing possible impacts of the options considered.

The implementation of foresight routines will help in preparing future policies. Evidence-based foresight practices will ensure that policy-making is trustworthy and future-fit. This paper is partly inspired by the evidence-related policy issues encountered in managing the coronavirus outbreak. The Covid 19 crisis was, and remains, characterised by uncertainties and evidence that change by the hour through progressive insight. Policy-makers had to make decisions that balanced expert advice and presumed feasibility and public acceptance. Additionally, new virus- and vaccine-related evidence meant they had – and continue to have to – constantly review measures, in these exceptional times of uncertainties and evolution of insight, when experts' advice was occasionally inconsistent. This briefing first details the role of evidence in the policy ecosystem, with separate sections regarding science for policy and science- and technology-related policy. Subsequently, an evidence-based mechanism is suggested for rapid response during crises or emergencies. The paper concludes with four practical tips for trustworthy policy analysis: (i) seeing the broader picture; (ii) exploring possible biases; (iii) examining the policy issue from different perspectives; and (iv) stress-testing policy options by widely assessing possible impacts of the options considered.