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Many Factors to Weigh

Over at the Guardian, Chris Tyler, the director of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology in the UK, tries to clear up misconceptions that scientists may hold about policy-making and policymakers. "When scientists moan about how little politicians know about science, I usually get annoyed," he says. "Such grouching is almost always counterproductive and more often than not betrays how little scientists know about the UK's governance structures, processes, culture and history."

First off, Tyler writes on his list that scientists should keep in mind making policy is a difficult and complex process that involves input from a number of groups. And he adds that no policy is ever perfect. Further, Tyler notes that scientific evidence is one of the many things that policymakers have to consider, and he says that "economics and law are top dogs" when policymakers seek advice.

And some policymakers, he adds, are experts in the field, but they are, of course, only human with a range of experience.

The policy world and the scientific world also work on different timescales, Tyler says. Telling a policymaker seeking advice that more research is necessary is not the right answer, he adds.

"Policy decisions usually need to be made pretty quickly, and asking for more time and money to conduct research is unlikely to go down well," he says, adding that "I'm not saying that more research isn't often needed; it is. But it is not the answer I would ever choose to give to a policy maker seeking scientific advice."