Publication date: 10 August, 2022

Introduction: Scientific evidence plays an important role in informing policy decisions. Science advisers are responsible for communicating that evidence in a way that is useful and understandable for policymakers. Made the most of, these interactions can produce policies that harness scientific and other expertise to tackle societal issues.

The COVID-19 pandemic proved an extraordinary test of the science-policy interface. Decisions had to be made with great urgency, and despite significant scientific uncertainty.

This report combines senior scientists’ advice on communicating uncertainty and advising policymakers, gathered during the Institute’s ‘Science Communication to Policymakers’ workshop, and interviews with senior policy academics, to produce guidance on science advice in climates of uncertainty.

Download the report, Navigating Degrees of Certainty.

Author: David Warrell

With thanks to the contributors and speakers: Prof Charles Bangham, Prof Faith Osier, Prof Wendy Barclay, Prof Sir John Bell, Prof Paul Cairney, Dame Sally Davies, Prof Christl Donnelly, Prof Neil Ferguson, Dr Fiona Lethbridge, Dr Rupert Lewis, Prof David Nabarro, Dr Kathryn Oliver, Prof Peter Openshaw, Prof Roger Pielke Jr., Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter, Prof Andy Stirling, Dr Stephen Webster, Prof James Wilsdon, Amanda Wolthuizen.

Workshop: The Science Communication to Policymakers: Navigating Degrees of Certainty Workshop was held on 21 February, 2022 at the Royal Society. It was co-hosted by the Institute of Infection and the Royal Society and funded via Imperial College's Policy Support Fund. It brought together scientists, policy experts, government advisers, and media to discuss the insights gained during the pandemic about the current system of science advice to policymakers. 

Click here to watch the workshop [available to Imperial staff/students only]

Funding: The workshop and report were supported by the UKRI Policy Support Fund and Imperial’s policy engagement programme, The Forum.