Interview: What can advisors to politicians learn from the Corona crisis?

Alexander Bogner, co-author of the "Vienna Theses on Policy Advice" and sociologist at ITA, says in an interview with Radio Ö1: "Science should enable the autonomy of politics".

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On the occasion of the Joint Academy Day of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (OEAW) and the German Leopoldina on 1 February 2023, during which the "Vienna Theses" on successful scientific policy advice were presented and discussed, ITA sociologist Alexander Bogner emphasises the importance of independent policy that relies on scientific advice in an interview with the The Austrian Broadcasting Corporation.

Bogner recently published a book with renown publisher Reclam “Die Epistemisierung des Politischen” and is a Senior Scientist at the Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. In the Ö1 interview he sums up the role of policy advice in the pandemic.

Science not an excuse for politicians

"Scientific policy advice has become professionalised in Austria in a very short time, the highlight being the establishment of the Gecko Commission in December 2021. That was an attempt to centralise advice so that policy-makers have a single point of contact. But there were problems in the process, from both sides," Bogner says in the interview.

On the one hand, policy-makers sometimes instrumentalised scientific recommendations to legitimise preconceived decisions. "On the other hand, we have also seen that science has begun to play politics. When recommendations are formulated as political appeals, this is also problematic," says Bogner.

Ultimately, however, it is about learning from mistakes, he says. The Vienna Theses on Policy Advice are intended to provide guidelines for reflection: "This also means that science should ensure that not all the burden of justification is lifted from politics. Policy-makers should explain why they have decided to take which measures based on which considerations.

Evidence-based policy is also advisable in other areas, such as education or migration, says Bogner.