Relationship reset needed between scientific community and policymakers – expert

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A “relationship reset” is needed between the scientific community and policymakers as the Covid-19 crisis continues to grip the country, the incoming president of the British Science Association (BSA) has said.

Professor Lord Ara Darzi urged the scientific community to embrace interdisciplinarity and engage more closely with policymakers in the UK to speed up the implementation of ideas and explore new ways of working.

He was speaking ahead of his first public speech in his role as president of the BSA.

“We need a relationship reset as we enter the next phase of the battle against Covid-19 to build a stronger partnership of mutual trust and respect.

“There is a moral imperative for scientists to engage with policymakers—and a moral duty for politicians to listen to and act on what they say.

“We should be clear that scientists advise, but ministers decide.”

The practising NHS surgeon, who is director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation, added that politicians need to be more transparent about the evidence they use for making decision.

While scientists need to make sure their public interventions are always evidence-based and avoid “irresponsible speculation”, he explained.

Lord Darzi said the evidence base should always be made public so it can be subject to proper scrutiny and peer review, saying this had been one of the major problems at the early stage of the pandemic.

He added that the innovative and ground-breaking progress made by the scientific community and wider health sector over the last six months to detect, prevent and treat Covid-19 should be a catalyst for the future.

Another priority for the incoming BSA president, who was born in Iraq to Armenian parents, is promoting greater diversity at the top of science.

He said: “I want to see a more diverse science community, with more women, more people from ethnic minorities, and more people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds.

“Diversity is vital so that we get the best talent — but also so we get the most creative and innovative research because that’s how you get fresh ideas.

“And the leaders of our scientific community must reflect that diversity.”

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