Now, more than ever, Parliamentarians need accurate, reliable, and timely scientific information. Unfortunately, with disinformation and misinformation on the rise, this is easier said than done. Motivated by the pandemic, CSPC designed a survey for MPs and senators regarding the access, use and exchange of scientific knowledge in Parliament. A total of 26 Parliamentarians participated in this study, representing different parties, genders, and geographic locations.
The majority of respondents reflected that the availability and applicability of scientific knowledge in policy-making has increased, as compared to before the pandemic. However, all respondents (regardless of political affiliation) have found that misinformation and disinformation has become more challenging to sift through and address. In addition, barriers (such as time constraints, discerning reliable scientific data, and conflicting scientific/constituent demands) remain significant obstacles regarding the use of scientific knowledge.
At CSPC 2022, Senator Stan Kutcher commented that “MPs and senators need a reliable, just-in-time resource that can help us with scientific information when we need it and where we can trust the information that we are getting.” Survey respondents have several suggestions in this regard to increase the utility and availability of scientific knowledge, such as having scientific knowledge available in a policy-ready format, introducing a non-partisan scientific advisor to keep Parliamentarians reliably informed, and holding regular briefings on key scientific topics.
Parliamentarians generally want to use more scientific knowledge in their work. The key question is how to do so in the most efficient and effective way possible. As one Parliamentarian said, “[w]hen so many are claiming to be “following the science” it is important to have a clear, credible and uncomplicated view as to what that science really is.”