Tuesday, November 18, 2008

MPs should be briefed on science

I broadly welcome the news that Adam Afriye MP, Conservative science spokesman, is proposing that Conservative MPs should attend briefings on scientific literacy under a plan to strengthen evidence-based policy-making.

Classes explaining scientific method and basic concepts will be included in the induction programme for all Tory MPs after the next election, and sitting members and peers will also be offered the opportunity to attend.

The policy is intended to address concerns about a lack of scientific expertise and understanding in the House of Commons and Whitehall.

Scientific challenges such as global warming, stem-cell research, pandemic flu and GM crops are becoming increasingly important political issues. Making information available to MPs of all parties about the scientific evidence on these and other subjects strikes me as an excellent idea.

This is not a problem unique to Conservative MPs - Professor Sir David King, the Government’s former chief scientific adviser, has criticised the Civil Service for a reluctance to use science properly when framing and implementing policy.

Mr Afriyie told The Times: “The evidence-based scientific approach extends well beyond subjects like embryology or GM crops. It is also critical to social policy and criminal sentencing, and it cuts across all areas of government.”

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