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Working at the sciencepolicy interface Lisa Boden, Harriet Auty, Pete Goddard, Alistair Stott, Nia Ball, Dominic Mellor The veterinary and scientific knowledge base for animal health is evolving rapidly, in line with improving technologies and faster access to better quality data. In parallel, there is an increasing public demand for the rapid translation of that knowledge into transparent, robust, evidence-based animal health policies. The translation of scientific research into policy or practice has been occurring with increasing intensity over recent years, but this has not always been considered unequivocally successful. Both the BSE crisis in the 1990s and the foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak in 2001 have taught us that, without transparent, effective and explicit communication channels established between scientists, policymakers and individuals, there may be an irreparable erosion of public confidence in our animal health and food safety infrastructures. The Scudamore Review (Scudamore and Ross 2008), published after the 2007 FMD outbreak, highlighted the importance of these existing links between policymakers and scientists and rapid government access to such expertise in the face of an animal Lisa Boden, Dominic Mellor, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Glasgow, 464 Bearsden Road, Glasgow G61 1QH, UK Harriet Auty, Alistair Stott, SRUC Epidemiology Research Unit, Drummondhill, Inverness IV2 4JZ, UK Pete Goddard, The James Hutton Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen AB15 8QH, UK Nia Ball, Animal Health and Welfare Division, Saughton House, Scottish Government, Broomhouse Drive, Edinburgh EH11 3XG, UK e-mail: [email protected]

disease emergency. In 2006, the EPIC consortium (Epidemiology, Population Health and Infectious Disease Control) was established in Scotland, and since 2011, it has been funded by the Scottish Government as a Centre of Expertise (EPIC 2013). Within the EPIC model, the role of knowledge brokers has been explicitly included to facilitate the coordination and communication of information exchange and translation across the science-policy interface. Routine presence of these EPIC scientists in national Government offices and at national stakeholder meetings has resulted in increased recognition of knowledge brokers within the agricultural sector and has provided opportunities to develop trusted relationships and expertise outwith disease outbreaks. This has undoubtedly improved our ability to contribute evidence to inform emerging animal health policy priorities in Scotland. Even though it is clear that not all scientists or academic institutions place the same importance on (or adequately reward) the role of knowledge brokers, this culture is gradually changing (Clayton and Culshaw 2005). The issues that we raise in this article are topical (Sutherland and others 2013) and are derived from our personal experience gained in a single national setting (Scotland), but we believe that they resonate well beyond national and policy boundaries. Contemporary political culture is steeped in science, but this has paradoxically resulted in the public ‘questioning scientists more while trusting them less’ (Wilsdon and Willis 2005). Despite this, there is tacit agreement that good policy decisions are

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Research usually informed by credible, legitimate and salient scientific evidence. This has resulted in a public appetite for transparent dialogue and engagement between scientists, governments and public and private stakeholders to inform government decision-making processes. It has also resulted in a recent proliferation of publications highlighting the need for better communication across these disciplinary boundaries (Christley and others 2013, Sutherland and others 2013, Tyler 2013). At least in part, this is because scientists and government policymakers are driven by very different imperatives (Choi and others 2005, Box and Englehard 2006, Scott 2006, Bielak and others 2008, Jones and others 2008). Scientists need to produce ‘publications, patents and professorships’ (Choi and others 2005). Thus, they prioritise the development of expertise, access to resources and robust outputs derived from independent scientific methods, which quantify uncertainties FIG 1: Diagram showing how EPIC knowledge brokers translated a policy question on FMD and include plausible predictions of for scientists and re-translated the scientific report for policymakers. This scientific output the future. However, scientific research has been incorporated into a consultation document for public stakeholders on the Scottish can take a long time to complete and Government’s 2013 FMD strategy some research projects may never reach definitive conclusions; resultant findings of conflicting advice can quickly and individuals or networks of individuals to are often laden with caveats (‘more research dramatically alter the social and political develop communication links between in this area is required’). This can appear landscape. Thus, the timescale and different working groups; in other words, to policymakers as self-serving (Choi and economic practicality of applied research ‘funding the arrows’ (Campbell 2006) is others 2005, Bielak and others 2008) and must take account of the expectations of as important as funding the boxes. These is unhelpful in decision-making. Moreover, the policymaker (Jones and others 1999, communication links (‘arrows’) can be made most scientists are not fluent in the Tyler 2013). Feasible policy options evolve through networks of skilled ‘knowledge policymaking process (Bielak and others at an unpredictable pace (Jones and others brokers’ (Sverrisson 2001, Choi and others 2008). Cutting-edge, ‘blue-sky’ research 2008), so scientists must have the means 2005, Meyer 2010) who are responsible for priorities may be ‘too narrowly focused to stay relevant so that they do not spend facilitating dialogue between researchers and to have an impact on policy debates that their time ‘solving the wrong problem’ their audiences. typically span a wide range of issues from (Bardwell 1991). Good communication is In this context, knowledge brokers are a number of disciplines’ (Scott 2006). It is crucial to this process. Traditional academic fluent in both the languages of scientists no surprise then that policymakers have approaches to scientific communication and policymakers. If skilful, they can a jaundiced opinion of science (Campbell have not always facilitated transparency, translate and rescale a policy problem 2006, Bielak and others 2008) at least some trust or dialogue between stakeholders into a relevant and researchable scientific of the time. and scientists because, invariably, they question (Bielak and others 2008). In contrast to scientists, policymakers have focused on knowledge transfer rather Equally, they are knowledgeable about are usually time-poor (Choi and others than knowledge exchange (Quine and cutting-edge scientific research and how 2005, Bielak and others 2008), and are often others 2011). Knowledge exchange is more that may inform current or future policy in a position in which they may not be important because it engenders familiarity debates. Brokered knowledge, therefore, certain of the information they need until between parties and increases the likelihood should be considered the most robust, they need it (Campbell 2006). Policy teams that stakeholders turn to trusted scientists accountable and usable knowledge for a are subject to high turnover rates, which as key sources of accurate, evidence-based policy question (Meyer 2010). Nevertheless, is often a deliberate culture in government information which is not ‘value-laden’ its value is dependent on the expertise of employment. Thus, there is reduced (Watson 2005). These relationships need the knowledge brokers and their ability opportunity to develop deeper, specific to be established in ‘peacetime’ so that to guarantee that knowledge is not ‘lost scientific knowledge and understanding and there is tacit trust in them in times of in translation’. Unsurprisingly, scientists there is reduced justification for investment emergency (for example, during animal perceive themselves as the best people in specialist training. Furthermore, or human disease outbreaks) (Choi and to interpret their own research in this policy decisions may need to be taken others 2005). But familiarity and trust manner. This may be problematic as they confidentially and quickly, frequently take time to develop, and scientists and have a ‘deep professional and emotional excluding the possibility of peer-review. policymakers are busy; ‘neither has the time investment in their work’ (Christley and Scientists wishing to apply their work nor the expertise to also be an expert in others 2013), which may unintentionally usefully to policy need to recognise that knowledge exchange’ (Campbell 2006). As prevent complete transparency about the ‘ is not a certainty that scientific evidence a result, this type of communication may limitations and uncertainties that inevitably will carry as much weight ... as other types be overlooked and undervalued, and may exist. Equally, depending on their expertise of evidence’ (Brownson and others 2009) be poor in quality if it is only a nominal and experience, policymakers are not always in real-world decision-making. Changes consideration in the context of a research well-trained or confident in their own skills in public opinion, the availability of new project (Campbell 2006). It is therefore to decipher or critique scientific methods, scientific information or the appearance important to identify and formally support scientific lexicon or interpret concepts 166 | Veterinary Record | February 15, 2014

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Research of risk and uncertainty within scientific outputs. This means that they may have difficulty in placing value judgments on the importance of these in a specific policy context (Christley and others 2013). Thus, knowledge brokering activities are best undertaken by independent professionals with expertise in both science and policy fields to ensure that scientists are ‘policyaware but not necessarily policy-prescriptive’ (Watson 2005) and that policymakers are scientifically literate and focused on evidence-based policy rather than ‘policybased evidence’ (Choi and others 2005). An explicit role for knowledge brokers has been included and has evolved within the EPIC consortium (EPIC 2013). The consortium has been created as one of three ‘Centres of Expertise’ across all policy areas, to provide policymakers with access to high-quality advice and analyses on the epidemiology of animal diseases that are important to Scotland and to best prepare Scotland for any major animal disease incursion. While some complexities of working at the science-policy interface have been previously described in the fields of public health (European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies 2013, Millbank Memorial Fund 2013) and environmental sciences (ClimateXChange 2013), this represents novel territory in the field of animal health and welfare. Knowledge brokering within EPIC is responsible for transference and translation of government requests for scientific advice and the scientific responses to those requests. This relationship facilitates dialogue (as opposed to sequential or competing monologues) and, importantly, also allows for the provision of objective, independent scientific advice. Routine presence of EPIC scientists in national government offices and at national stakeholder meetings has resulted in increased recognition of knowledge brokers within the agricultural sector and has provided opportunities to develop trusted relationships. As a result, EPIC scientists have increased personal contact with national government policymakers and enhanced fluency with the policy-making process. This has undoubtedly improved their ability to contribute scientific evidence to inform animal health policy priorities in Scotland. An example of this type of policyapplied work is shown in Fig 1. Here EPIC and government worked closely together to prepare a set of veterinary risk assessments that will be employed to inform policy on animal movements and public access to the countryside in any future FMD outbreak in Britain (Veterinary Risk Assessments 2013). The report, produced by EPIC scientists, formed part of an ongoing consultative process between the government and its stakeholders.

Fundamental to success at the sciencepolicy interface is the consideration of what it means to produce salient, robust scientific advice for policymakers in a timely manner that is also conducive to maintaining scientific credibility and independence in the eyes of the public. What remains less clear is how to achieve a balance of these priorities, since they are likely to be, at least to some extent, conflicting. Scientists do not wish to be misconstrued as ‘lobbyists’, and improving and increasing scientific advice to government should not necessarily translate directly into more policy if there is no need for it (Monbiot 2013). Although it is true that the UK has a ‘brilliant scientific advisory system’ embedded in both government and parliament (Tyler 2013), an equivalent ‘policy advisory system’ does not exist in most universities or research institutes in which this science is being developed. This is a crucial problem. Scientists in such institutions who wish to communicate their research to policymakers may lack the resources to do this successfully. Logically, this identifies an explicit role for specialist knowledge brokers as essential components of scientific teams in such institutions. Unfortunately, an appropriate framework for recognition of the importance of their work, which would legitimise a career trajectory as a ‘science-policy knowledge broker’, is still in its infancy or non-existent in most academic environments in which ‘publish or perish’ is the prevailing mantra. The new Research and Excellence Framework (www.ref. begins to recognise scientific impact, but future iterations could go a great deal further in this regard. It is obvious, from our evolving experience at the science-policy interface, that knowledge brokering between scientists, policymakers and stakeholders is crucial for success.


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Working at the science-policy interface Lisa Boden, Harriet Auty, Pete Goddard, Alistair Stott, Nia Ball and Dominic Mellor Veterinary Record 2014 174: 165-167

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