Research Article on ‘Follow the Science’ Rhetoric Wins Policy & Politics Ken Young Prize

Image celebrating the Ken Young Award recipients

We are excited to announce that the publication, “Analysing the ‘follow the science’ rhetoric of government responses to COVID-19 Link “, co-authored by Margaret MacAulay, GSL Research Director of Public Health Institutions Patrick Fafard, Adèle Cassola and Michèle Palkovits, has been selected to receive the Ken Young Prize Link . This award is given to the best article judged to represent excellence in the field published in Policy & Politics.  

“I’m honoured to receive the Ken Young Prize from Policy & Politics for our article ‘Analyzing the ‘Follow the Science’ Rhetoric of Government Responses to COVID-19,’ alongside lead author Margaret MacAulay and co-authors Michele Palkovits and Adéle Cassola,” says Professor Fafard. “This award highlights the excellence in research emerging across the Global Strategy Lab (GSL). As embedded in the core interdisciplinary foundations of GSL, this recognition further supports our commitment to innovative approaches when addressing research gaps.” 

Hand of a person playing chess

The award-winning article fills a gap in existing research by examining how the phrase “following the science” misrepresents the role of scientific evidence in policymaking, the relationship between politicians and public health officials, and the locus of accountability for public health decisions. 

By analyzing instances when elected leaders used this phrase in relation to issues such as mass event cancellations, border closures, face masks, and in-person learning, the Global Strategy Lab’s Public Health Institutions team found that politicians commonly used the term “following the science” to deflect responsibility onto government processes and public servants.  

The authors concluded that, in mature democratic countries, credit and blame for government decisions are borne by elected politicians, not those appointed to advise them. Their research raises important questions about the connection between science and politics and how the latter can manipulate the former for political gains. 


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