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The role of scientific advice

Estrategias_233DANIEL BUENOThe role that scientists play in policymaking on matters such as climate change and biodiversity has so far been limited to providing technical data; it does not include monitoring the impact of the decisions made by governments. That is one of the findings of a report published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which assessed the role of researchers in the process of scientific advising. According to the report, advisory bodies such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) generally consider that their role ends when their recommendations are given to the interested parties. Carthage Smith, who coordinated the OECD report, told the website that these groups need to take a more active stance. “It is important to assess whether the information has had any real influence,” he said. The report recommends that scientists and government policymakers take into consideration the uncertainties inherent in research and avoid making categorical statements. “Scientific opinions can be contested if the evidence is not conclusive enough. The difference between risk and uncertainty is not always well understood by the public,” the report says.