The Government's review of the principles applying to the treatment of independent scientific advice provided to government - Science and Technology Contents

Annex 1: The Statement of Principles for the Treatment of Independent Scientific Advice

Below is the Statement of Principles for the Treatment of Independent Scientific Advice and introduction as set out on the web pages of Sense About Science.[38]

The Modernising Government White Paper of 1999 stated that "policy decisions should be based on sound evidence". Large numbers of academic researchers and other experts give the Government the benefit of their expertise, usually without payment, through the work of independent scientific advisory bodies.

Independent advisers have responsibilities defined by the Government Office for Science Code of Practice for Scientific Advisory Committees, as well as the Terms of Reference and Codes for individual committees.

The following Statement of Principles for the Treatment of Independent Scientific Advice would enhance confidence in the scientific advisory system and help Government secure essential advice.

1. Academic Freedom

·  Becoming a member of an independent advisory committee does not reduce the freedom of an adviser to communicate publicly, whether via scholarly publishing and conferences, through the general media or to parliament, subject to the restrictions in existing Codes of Practice, notably:

—  respecting confidentiality

—  not claiming to speak for the Government, and

—  making clear whether they are communicating on behalf of their committees

2. Independence of Operation

·  Independent scientific advisory bodies are protected from political and other interference in their work

·  In the context of independent scientific advice, disagreement with Government policy and the public articulation and discussion of relevant evidence and issues by members of advisory committees cannot be grounds for criticism or dismissal

·  Advisory committees need the service of an independent press office

3. Proper Consideration of Advice

·  Reports will normally be published and will not be criticised or rejected prior to publication

·  If the Government is minded to reject a recommendation, the relevant scientific advisory committee will normally be invited to comment privately before a final decision is made

·  It is recognised that some policy decisions are contingent on factors other than the scientific evidence, but when expert scientific advice is rejected the reasons should be described explicitly and publicly

·  The advice of expert committees does not cease to be valid merely because it is rejected or not reflected in policy-making.

We ask the Government to affirm its support for these principles.

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