The “modern” model of science-policy interface, based on mutual legitimation of science and political power, is under strain for several reasons, including increasing complexity and uncertainty, requiring alternative models of risk governance. Considerable progress has taken place with approaches that address such limitations.
Several European projects and initiatives are underway that explore, develop, refine, test and apply approaches for supporting a better use of scientific evidence on environmental health determinants towards policy. Comparing and contrasting the achievements of some of these efforts, and assessing them against the priorities set by countries of the pan-European region of WHO, provides several useful insights.
There are a number of points in the modern model that can be modified in order to make it more realistic, more relevant and informative to policy questions, e.g.:
- multiple distribution mixing can be modeled;
- uncertainty can be characterized more appropriately;
- formal processing of expert opinion can be added;
- common metrics such as burden of disease or monetary value can be used;
- competing ethical frameworks can be adopted.
Some approaches such as Health Impact Assessment depart even more from the modern model by involving stakeholders in the capacity of peers and questioning the super partes status of experts.
These methods can and sometimes do support policy development, but their use in Europe is somewhat patchy. Efforts are underway by WHO and other agencies to promote a more systematic approach.