One theme of the Science and Policymaking conference (#EUINGSA16) is interdisciplinarity. Most people are calling for joint work to help inform major policy problems, with some criticising a tendency to forget the social sciences and, in particular, humanities.
The same can be said for the study of science advice to government. Most scientific contributions to the discussion are from people with a ‘hard science’ background describing their personal experiences without much discussion of the evidence on science advice in policy settings provided by the ‘softer’ disciplines. This is where many of those forgotten disciplines come in, to answer 4 key questions:
- What makes people like policymakers tick?
The obvious discipline is psychology, to understand the links between ‘rational’ and ‘irrational’ policymaking. The other is education, to help explain how adults learn (which is, I think, what scientists expect of politicians).
- What messages work?
In this case, we have established disciplines, such as the study of communication, and the ‘science of stories’ in political science, as well as multi-disciplinary approaches to ‘science diplomacy’.
- How can we make the process work for us?
We can use psychological insights to identify how to influence policymakers: exploiting ‘fluency’ (people pay attention to things with which they are already familiar) and manipulating people’s cognitive biases to get what we want.
- Should we make the process work for us?
We can draw on philosophy to help us decide how far we should go to get what we want. We can also draw on anthropology to help us work out why we are so uncomfortable when talking about crossing the line from impartial adviser to policy actor.
By lucky chance, there is a special issue of articles drawing on these insights (and more) to identify how to ‘maximise the use of evidence in policy’.