16 December 2012

Why Strong Science Assessors Matter

In my latest Bridges column I connect Hurricane Sandy to Mad Cow disease through the repeatedly-learned lesson that effective use of science in decision making depends upon having strong institutions. Here is how it starts:
Last month in Berlin, I participated in the 10th anniversary conference of the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment – the Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung (BfR). The BfR is one of a number of European organizations that Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle, executive director of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), characterized at the conference as "the children of Mad Cow disease." This group of siblings includes the EFSA, departmental chief scientific advisors in the UK, and others. These organizations, and the conditions under which they were created, remind us that if science is to be well used in policy and politics, then strong institutions are necessary. This is a lesson continuously relearned, most recently in the United States in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
You can read the rest here, and for background on the science and politics of the "hurricane deductible" see this post from last week. No doubt I will have occasion to re-visit this subject later this week.