Policy Implications of the Phrase“Following the Science”

Infographic showing the Policy Implications of the phrase "following the science". These include "The Science", "An Illusion", "Lost Trust", "Shifting Responsibility", "Accountability".
What are the policy implications? 
  • GSL’s analysis suggests that politicians invoked “the science” to delay and justify decision-making on scientifically contested and politically risky issues such as mass event cancellations, school closures, border restrictions, and mask mandates. 
  • When politicians imply that decisions are made by CMOs, it can create the illusion that these advisors, rather than politicians, are the ones in control. 
  • Politicians’ claims to be “following the science” can undermine trust in ‘the science’ and in scientific advisors when scientific evidence and policy decisions inevitably change or evolve. This may complicate government responses to future public health crises. 
  • Shifting responsibility onto scientific advisors also poses a risk to the balance between public servants and politicians, where the former provide candid advice with the understanding that political leaders bear ultimate responsibility for decisions. 
  • These implications suggest that politicians should be consistent, transparent, and accountable in their messaging to build public trust, preserve the integrity of the CMO’s role, and increase their chances of effectively navigating future crises. 


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