MCC discusses social science policy advice

In an expert workshop at the MCC, high-ranking scientists and politicians discuss current challenges and opportunities of social science advice to policy in Europe.

Photo: Shutterstock / Matej Kastelic


How can social sciences in Europe help to solve societal problems? This is the central question of the workshop „Principles and guidelines for social science advice to policy” at the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC). The event is jointly organized by the MCC, the International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA) and Stiftung Mercator. Almost 30 participants from the areas of science and politics from all over Europe will come to the expert meeting on April 25.

The discussion will be based on the new INGSA guidelines, which will be presented by James Wildson, INGSA member and professor at the University of Sussex. They aim to improve the use of evidence in informing public policy, but not to lobby for specific policies for science and research systems. Wolfgang Rohe, Managing Director and Head of the Department of Science at Stiftung Mercator, as well as Martin Kowarsch, head of the MCC Working Group Scientific Assessments, Ethics and Public Policy, will present a brief commentary on the relationship between social sciences and politics.

Kowarsch points to the importance of scientific assessments, which analyze different solution options and their practical consequences for society: “The energy and climate policies in Europe, in particular, have fundamental and longer-term impacts on society, which should be carefully taken into consideration.” For example, an EU policy with a considerable bio-energy share could have an impact on food prices, deforestation and land rents well beyond Europe. Likewise, an effective carbon pricing scheme could lead to a more efficient economy and better air quality. That scientific studies already carry certain values and that the literature is expanding rapidly makes such assessments challenging according to Kowarsch.

The aim of the non-public workshop is to explore the current possibilities and challenges of social science policy advice in Europe and to discern which practices have proven to be effective. It will also discuss how the INGSA guidelines can be refined to better address these challenges. The workshop consists of three parts, each containing an open discussion with participants. Finally, a brief workshop report will be jointly prepared by the workshop organizers summarizing the workshop conclusions and incorporating these into the next iteration of the INGSA guidelines.