Parliaments are facing a challenging situation as they have to address a number of research and future issues that are characterised by great complexity. A number of issues concern new technologies and their societal implications – others may entail difficult discussions on ethics, such as issues about genetic testing and therapy. Over time, scientific and technical progress has created a situation in which increasing levels of scientific and technical skills become a necessity for decision-makers.

Scientific advice, as well as public involvement, is crucial when communicating and debating new techniques and research findings. Scientists often deliver information in a form that is not comprehensible or useful in the shaping of policies. Politicians may request clear answers to specific questions, whereas scientists are likely to give several alternative answers or be reluctant to answer at all. Another important aspect is credibility; it is important for scientists to communicate gaps, risks and uncertainties in current knowledge.

Several parliaments, both in Europe and worldwide, have units, which are either in the form of internal or external bodies that work with advising decision-makers in the field of science and technology. The unit at the Swedish Parliament, which is relatively new, has worked since 2007 with providing Swedish parliamentarians with research findings and technology assessments. A new and fruitful collaboration with the Swedish Research Council has also been developed.

Swedish experiences so far have shown that it is important to prepare researchers before they meet with parliamentarians. Terms that are too technical and scientific are for example often used, which prevent the transmission of the message. As regards technology assessments, regular meetings with parliamentary reference groups ensure that the content is useful for them. Involving parliamentarians at an early stage also creates a sense of ownership of the work, which is a step towards ensuring that they use the material. After finalising a report, it is important to let expert groups read and scrutinise the content and to ensure that it is well-balanced. This ensures the quality and objectiveness which is important if the material is to be used in decision-making. Persons trained to facilitate communication between researchers and politicians and to assess new research findings and technologies are of vital importance for present and future decision-making.

">
 [PCST]
PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Parliaments facing a challenging situation

Helene Limén   The Parliamentary Evaluation and Research Unit (PER), The Swedish Parliament

Eva Krutmeijer   Percipia AB

Parliaments are facing a challenging situation as they have to address a number of research and future issues that are characterised by great complexity. A number of issues concern new technologies and their societal implications – others may entail difficult discussions on ethics, such as issues about genetic testing and therapy. Over time, scientific and technical progress has created a situation in which increasing levels of scientific and technical skills become a necessity for decision-makers.

Scientific advice, as well as public involvement, is crucial when communicating and debating new techniques and research findings. Scientists often deliver information in a form that is not comprehensible or useful in the shaping of policies. Politicians may request clear answers to specific questions, whereas scientists are likely to give several alternative answers or be reluctant to answer at all. Another important aspect is credibility; it is important for scientists to communicate gaps, risks and uncertainties in current knowledge.

Several parliaments, both in Europe and worldwide, have units, which are either in the form of internal or external bodies that work with advising decision-makers in the field of science and technology. The unit at the Swedish Parliament, which is relatively new, has worked since 2007 with providing Swedish parliamentarians with research findings and technology assessments. A new and fruitful collaboration with the Swedish Research Council has also been developed.

Swedish experiences so far have shown that it is important to prepare researchers before they meet with parliamentarians. Terms that are too technical and scientific are for example often used, which prevent the transmission of the message. As regards technology assessments, regular meetings with parliamentary reference groups ensure that the content is useful for them. Involving parliamentarians at an early stage also creates a sense of ownership of the work, which is a step towards ensuring that they use the material. After finalising a report, it is important to let expert groups read and scrutinise the content and to ensure that it is well-balanced. This ensures the quality and objectiveness which is important if the material is to be used in decision-making. Persons trained to facilitate communication between researchers and politicians and to assess new research findings and technologies are of vital importance for present and future decision-making.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

BACK TO TOP