The Role of Science in Public Policy

21 October 2020

TSPN was excited to start the 2020–2021 academic year with a workshop on the Role of Science in Public Policy. We had the privilege of hosting Dr. Maurice Bitran to lead the two hour discussion over zoom.

Dr. Bitran was formerly the CEO of the Ontario Science Centre, an Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) in the Ontario Government, and the Executive Director of the Ontario Research and Development Challenge Fund. Currently he is a senior fellow at the Munk school of Global Affairs and Public Policy where he teaches a course on Putting Policy into Action, and the Role of Science in Public Policy.

His passion for the intersection of science and public policy is not only evident through his past experience but also through his animated discussion of the subject matter. More than ever before, the role of experts has never come under so much scrutiny, and the need for evidence-based policymaking has never been more pressing.

In order to make effective contributions as scientists to policy, it is important to understand decision-making structures and where we can best play a role. We have also seen the need during this pandemic for better communications surrounding risk and uncertainty along with the reiterative nature of science policy as more information has been discovered. Dr. Bitran took us through the elements of the policy cycle, and outlined how the scientific method could play a role in policy formulation.

Most importantly, Dr. Bitran emphasized the need for scientists and policymakers to find a common language. He illustrated this through an exercise where the workshop participants were split into two breakout rooms — the scientists and the policymakers. The scientists were in charge of formulating their top 3 recommendations in response to COVID-19 while the policymakers were in charge of formulating their top 3 questions to scientists.

We are incredibly grateful to Dr. Bitran for giving up his time and expertise to discuss such a pertinent topic with us. If you missed the workshop please check out the recording of the event on YouTube.

By: Maegan Ong, Toronto Science Policy Network

The Toronto Science Policy Network (TSPN) aims to provide a platform for students (graduate and undergraduate), as well as post-doctoral researchers, to learn more about and engage in science policy. Sign up for our mailing list to stay in the loop about TSPN’s upcoming events. Read about our previous events on our Medium page here.

TSPN is a student science policy group at the University of Toronto, where students & researchers can learn more about and engage in science policy.