How can we reveal power and bias when synthesising evidence for policy?

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In a letter published today in Nature, STEPS co-director Andy Stirling and Clive Mitchell (Scottish Natural Heritage) suggest that ‘open-mindedness’ is a key principle in making evidence synthesis more useful for policy.

From pesticides to epidemics or obesity, there is often demand for analysis of a vast range of evidence to help inform decision-making and policy. In a previous Nature Comment piece, Christl Donnelly and co-authors proposed four principles to apply to the process. These are to make evidence synthesis inclusive, rigorous, transparent and accessible.

The fifth principle of ‘open-mindedness’ draws attention to how power and bias influences the way that evidence is gathered and analysed.

Contrasting values and interests can lead to different interpretations of the same evidence. Evidence from outside science can be useful too. And the practices and processes by which evidence is synthesised are marked by power and privilege.

The ‘open-mindedness’ principle would take account of these factors – useful for decisions where the stakes are high and values are uncertain, like biodiversity loss and climate change.

Read the letter (Nature 561, 33 (2018))

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