For a science policy nerd like me, meeting with international counterparts is like taking a holiday or meeting old friends in the pub at Christmas; there are many fresh things to explore but you can quickly get down to business.
Friday’s small but perfectly-formed gathering in Beijing of about 50 experts to discuss the role of science in public policy-making was no exception.
Participants were treated to a comprehensive programme of presentations on China’s science policy system, including from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), who are both the national academy of science – like the Royal Society – and a major research performer. We also heard from the Chinese Association for Science and Technology (CAST), China’s largest non-government association responsible for promoting science.
I have uploaded several of the presentations and they are available at the end of this post. Please have a look through and leave your comments below.
Three themes emerged for me as the conversation came to a focus towards the end of the day.
- What is the role of the scientist (and scientific organisations) in policy-making? As one participant put it, can scientists be athletes and referees for policy at the same time?
- Is scientific expertise sufficient for high quality and effective policy work?
- What is the relationship between science and the public?
My observation is that both in the UK and China, the scientific community have shown commitment to developing their capacity to inform public policy. But they also recognise there are practical limits to high expectations, and that with responsibility, comes accountability and transparency in decision-making (not only to policymakers).
This has made me wonder if in fact the title for the seminar might have been put as a question (and not a statement) ‘Science and Innovation into Policymaking?”
Recent speeches by the current and former Presidents of the Royal Society, and also by Premier Wen Jiabao at the Royal Society in June 2011 have also discussed the role of science in policy, and indeed wider society.
My thanks go to the S&I Network at the British Embassy in Beijing, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Policy Management’s Professor Li Xiaoxuan for inviting the Royal Society to participate in such a thoughtful series of discussions. I hope our conversations continue and welcome comments and contributions via this blog post.
Here are some of the presentations: