do governments ever listen to “science”?


The UK government has consistently argued that his approach to the COVID-19 epidemic is based on the best scientific knowledge. For an ordinary person, this sounds encouraging. But he draws on the widespread belief that there is a right scientific answer to the problem, and that governments simply have to be guided by “science.”

But science policy students you know, scientific knowledge does not necessarily lead to a certain course of political action, not to mention the “best” policy. Scientific knowledge is often not relevant to policymaking, and politics is often based on knowledge that is chosen for political reasons.

“Led by science” calls up a linear model of policy making that more myth than reality, In fact, politicians use statements of scientific knowledge in order to justify the course of action,

Johnson held daily press briefings, often accompanied by chief medical officer Chris Whitty (left) and chief scientific adviser Patrick Wallans (right).
EPA-EFE / LEON NEAL / POOL

Political knowledge

COVID-19 is a threat to everyone, and any course of action will result in the death of a significant number of people. Knowing that life depends on decision-making should force governments to explain findings from different sources of scientific evidence and be open about how they made political decisions. This may include appeal to opposition parties, or organization of consultations with healthcare providers and the public to hear their concerns.

Instead, the government most often decides what “best available science” means and tries to reassure, rather than advise, the public on the best way forward.

This attitude is not unique to the current UK government. As Sheila YasanovA professor at science and technology at Harvard University said of a rabid cow outbreak in 1996:

The characteristic isolated decision-making process in the UK precluded widespread public participation until the government showed that the government’s renunciation of any risk to people was unfounded.

Response to radioactive contamination in Cumbrian fells in 1986shortly after the Chernobyl accident is another good example. The government referred to a simulation of nuclear deposition in order to predict that it would soon be safe for sheep farmers to return their herds to pasture. Then a ban was imposed on the movement and slaughter of sheep. Brian WynnThe professor of natural sciences noted that scientific assurances were made that the ban would last only three weeks, but then the restrictions were introduced for an indefinite period. The result was a huge loss of public confidence.

Acting on "Science"

Government announced limitations at public events and announced a partial closure on March 24, after a slow build-up, during which pubs and restaurants remained open. The decision to change tactics was allegedly based on new study researchers from Imperial College London, published March 16, who warned that up to 510,000 people could die if control measures are not introduced.

But the chief medical adviser to the government, Chris Whitty, said March 12 According to forecasts, according to the worst-case scenario plan, 80% of the country's population will be infected with a virus with a mortality rate of 1%. That equates to more than 500,000 deaths.

Serious about professional and social issues, the government could point out the main problems that Britain faced. Although much is still unknown about COVID-19, these issues should have been understood from the start.

We know that infection growth follows exponential function where is the infection doubling time between two and four days in the first weeks of the epidemicThe incubation period of COVID-19 is quite long, from five to 14 daysthat is more than twice as much as seasonal flu. This means that the probability of transmission before the onset of symptoms is much higher when using COVID-19. Although the true mortality rate is still unknown, it is assumed that it about 1% for those who have no health problems. Otherwise, it is much higher and much higher compared to seasonal flu.

These three facts provide epidemic practice guideThey call for limiting exposure to the virus and rapidly building the capacity of the health system. The action sooner rather than later is of great importance in the total number of infections and deaths.



More details:
Coronavirus: how the UK government uses behavioral science


But as cases in the UK grow, 100,000 jobs for healthcare providers in the NHS and the UK has one of the lowest hospital beds per 1000 people, Personal protective equipment for doctors and nurses also lacking in many hospitals.

The number of NHS beds per 1000 people has been steadily declining over the past few decades.
Max Roser, Hannah Ritchie, and Esteban Ortiz-Ospina (2020) – “Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) – Statistics and Research”, CC BY

The UK government benefited from the British tradition of being together in times of crisis, but it also thwarted the much-needed critique of government actions and statements.

The government determines what knowledge is suitable for public consumption, and tries to develop and update a narrative based on assurances, rather than transparency and credibility. This top-down approach to crisis management was lost in precious time, excluding the public from important discussions.



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