Excellent thoughts and critique here by Ideas4Sustainability’s Dave Abson.

Ideas for Sustainability

In a recent Nature article Bill Sutherland et al. provided “twenty tips for interpreting scientific claims”. This was essentially a twenty point check list to allow policy-makers understand and interpret peer-reviewed scientific evidence. With the rationale that in an age of evidence based policy the “immediate priority is to improve policy-makers’ understanding of the imperfect nature of science”. While I would argue that increasing the scientific literacy of policy-makers is never a bad thing (and putting aside Jahi Chappell’s recent insightful comment on whether policy-makers is the correct constituency for scientists to engage with) there are a number of things about this article I found problematic.

Firstly, Sutherland et al.’s article places undue responsibility on policy-makers developing the skills to interpret science, rather on sciencists developing the skills to communicate with policy-makers. Scientists, not policy-makers, must shoulder the responsibility for evaluating the bias, limitations and uncertainties within empirical…

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