Science and Politics: The perfect misunderstanding

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On 28th October 2020 Radix hosted a discussion aimed at understanding how scientists and politicians could communicate with each other better and what lessons could be learnt for both and for the public from the covid pandemic.

From what has gone wrong with ‘following the science’ to the many factors to be considered in policy making, the debate was wide-ranging, including the need for scientists to be able to admit when they didn’t know answers and for a more integrated approach to health and the economy.

The event’s transcript provides an opportunity to study the debate in more detail. What have been the leadership failures? Has scientific advice been implemented properly? Should we be hearing from more scientific disciplines? These are only the beginnings of what will be an ongoing conversation.

Speakers were:

Fiona Fox OBE Chief executive and founding member of the Science Media Centre, which seeks to renew public trust in science. Established in 2002, the SMC believes that scientists can have a huge impact on the way scientific issues are reported, thus influencing public debate and attitudes to science, and in turn helping to shape public policy.

George Freeman MP MP for Mid-Norfolk and former Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Life Sciences (2014 -16), as well as Minister for Transport (2019-2020. Widely respected as a leader in policy development, Freeman is the former Chair of Prime Minister’s Policy Board and of the Conservative Policy Forum (2017-2019). He is the founder and chair of the Big Tent Festival of ideas

Tracey Brown OBE Director of Sense about Science, an independent charity that challenges misrepresentation of science in public life and advocates for openness and honesty about research, to improve public debate and policymaking. Brown leads Sense about Science’s work on the transparency of evidence used by governments in policy, to ensure that the public has access to the same evidence and reasoning as decision makers. In 2010, The Times named Brown as one of the ten most influential figures in science policy in Britain and in 2017 she was made an OBE, for services to science.

Dr Ewan Kirk A technology entrepreneur, investor, and founder of quantitative investment management firm Cantab Capital Partners. Kirk is co-founder of the Turner Kirk Trust, one of the largest private funders of fundamental mathematics research in the UK. The foundation has endowed fellowships in science, mathematics and conservation. In 2015, Ewan and his wife Dr. Patricia Turner provided a £5 million gift to the University of Cambridge to establish the Cantab Capital Institute for the Mathematics of Information. Ewan has been involved in a number of ventures to apply cutting-edge science and mathematics research to enterprise, charity, and government. He believes the UK has the opportunity to lead the world in digital governance by using data more effectively to increase the accessibility, effectiveness, and quality of our public services.

Dr Joe Zammit-Lucia Joe is a co-Founder and Board member at RADIX. Trained as a physician at the University of London. Having practiced clinical medicine he had a career in industry spanning Research & Development, marketing, strategic planning and industry economics. He is a regular commentator on the relationship between politics and business in outlets in the UK, USA, Germany, Spain, The Netherlands and Malta. He was Special Advisor to the Director General at the International Union for Conservation of Nature and a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board at Florida International University. He is an Advisory Board member of the Singapore Forum. He is co-author of “The Death of Liberal Democracy?” and “Backlash: Saving Globalisation From Itself.” His new book on the relationship between Business and Politics will be published by Bloomsbury in 2022.

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