Science, Trust and Policy-making awards 2022

Two research projects have been funded under this policy-research scheme. They run from October 2022 to September 2023. See the scheme notes against which the projects were selected.

Dr Kathryn Oliver

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Under what conditions is science considered relevant and authoritative in policy-making?

Amount awarded: £85,557.60

The relevance and authority of science in policymaking is shaped by many complex factors, including the nature of the policy challenge, the nature of the evidence base, how messages are communicated and by whom, and the overall relationship between publics, scientists and government. Drawing on existing scholarship and expert groups, we explore these factors across three policy areas, developing hypotheses about what types of messages and messengers elicit trust. Working with Sense about Science (SaS) and their networks and links to community groups, we will explore the importance of format, media, and content in how publics respond to different types of communication, particularly marginalised publics. We will use creative approaches from across SHAPE and STEM to develop different formats and types of scientific communication, and coproduce recommendations on how science and policy institutions and individuals can work towards trustworthiness.

Dr Laszlo Horvath

Birkbeck, University of London

Exploring citizens' responses to science in public policy through natural language processing and conjoint experiments

Amount awarded: £64,745.00

Some of the most contentious debates in British politics and policy draw on scientific evidence. Through three examples of science-based public policy interventions: public health surveillance, environmental restrictions in Clean Air Zones, and genetically modified crops, our project will explore (1) the variety of ways science is invoked in the policy discourse, and (2) how different descriptions of science may influence citizens’ perceptions of legitimacy, trust, and intention to comply with policy. In Phase 1, we will construct a textual corpus comprising news media (local and national) and Parliamentary debate (Commons, Lords and committees) coverage of the three cases, and use computational methods to extract a set of key variables including tone, certainty of claims, hierarchy of evidence, and the actors involved in science production. In Phase 2, we will embed conjoint experiments in a nationally representative survey, to assess the relative impact of these characteristics on citizens’ support.

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