Why’s pandemic policymaking still short of science?

News:  Though science & technology has definitely played an important role in many decisions related to the containment of the pandemic, it has been ignored in many as well.

Instances where science & technology has been ignored in policy making w.r.t the containment of the pandemic?

Scrubbing of home furniture and doors was advised by governments in early 2020.

The need for a test report before entering one state from another is completely meaningless. It places an unnecessary burden on travelers as we have porous interstate borders.

All airports are crowded with absolutely no possibility of social distancing, yet one continuously hears announcements asking people to maintain social distancing.

The imposition of a night curfew for Omicron, curtailing public transport, while political rallies continue. It looks unsupported by science.

According to the author’s thesis, these are the outcomes due to the inclusion of false design in policymaking.

What are the flaws observed in policy-making?

Increasing nationalism and the rise of the ‘exceptionalism’ principle: It results in the enactment of multiple local level rules, while science generally believes in universal rules.

Unquestioned promotion of ‘ancient science’: Pleas by scientists to make practices based on ancient knowledge systems, subject to the requirements of modern science, are discarded.

Increase in competitive populism and dirty politics: it is leading to silly interstate and inter-country travel rules. Each leader wants to be seen as more ‘tough and decisive’ than the other, and this leads to diversion from rationality.

Apart from this, there are also some concerns related to the scientist and business/private sector.

Lack of consensus among Scientists: On many occasions, scientists were seen arguing rather than providing a clear consensus decision to policymakers. This was worsened by TV and social media.

How scientists, institutions, the public can lead change?

Improving scientific temper among both the population and policymakers: This is necessary to improve compliance with science-based decisions and, more importantly, for the public to question policymakers’ unscientific decisions.

Independent body to scrutinize every policy decision: It allows public scrutiny before and after a decision and its evidence base and put this in the public domain.

Scientists should ensure that they have no vested interest. They need to generate consensus statements rather than individual opinions. They need to be aware of external influences in policy development and careful in their communication with the public and policymakers. These principles should be included as a course in science curriculums.

Source: This post is based on the article “Why’s pandemic policymaking still short of science?” published in TOI on 3rd Jan 2022.

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