Policy: twenty tips for interpreting scientific claims
This list will help non-scientists to interrogate advisers and to grasp the limitations of evidence.Key Concepts addressed:
- 1-3 Association is not the same as causation
- 1-10 Hope may lead to unrealistic expectations
- 2-1 Comparisons are needed to identify treatment effects
- 2-2 Comparison groups should be similar
- 2-9 Reviews of fair comparisons should be systematic
- 2-8 Consider all of the relevant fair comparisons
- 3-2 Are you very different from the people studied?
This list will help non-scientists to interrogate advisers and to grasp the limitations of evidence, say William J. Sutherland, David Spiegelhalter and Mark A. Burgman.
Calls for the closer integration of science in political decision-making have been commonplace for decades. However, there are serious problems in the application of science to policy — from energy to health and environment to education.
One suggestion to improve matters is to encourage more scientists to get involved in politics. Although laudable, it is unrealistic to expect substantially increased political involvement from scientists. Another proposal is to expand the role of chief scientific advisers1, increasing their number, availability and participation in political processes. Neither approach deals with the core problem of scientific ignorance among many who vote in parliaments.
William J. Sutherland, David Spiegelhalter and Mark A. Burgman. Nature 2013;503:335-7.