Second Order Science: A new approach to policy relevance

Second Order Science: A new approach to policy relevance

Professor Midgley 4th from left, front row and Tony Hodgson 2nd from left, front row

Professor Gerald Midgley (Centre for Systems Studies, Business School) was one of a select number of invitees to a recent workshop in Scotland.

The event, funded by SITRA (a Finnish Government Policy Institute), focused on how Second Order Science could contribute to Finnish policy making.

The participants were a mixture of Finnish and British policy makers, plus systems scientists, cyberneticians and futurists from around the world.

Tony Hodgson, a Business School PhD student, facilitated the event, which was a mix of short presentations and in-depth dialogue on how the science-into-policy system needs to change.

“Most science that is used in policy making still hides the perspective and values of the researcher,” said Professor Midgley.

“Even stakeholder perspectives are often only acknowledged in passing, and scientists often present policy recommendations as ‘rational’ or ‘optimal’ without any consideration of the political context in which they would have to be implemented. This means that many such recommendations sit on the shelf gathering dust instead of being acted upon.”

Second Order Science is a new term that has been coined for research that is explicit about the positioning of the researcher. It explores stakeholder perspectives and the political context in depth. Recommendations for policy change are often evolved collaboratively with stakeholders. Partnerships between natural and social scientists are sought to facilitate this.

The Finnish Government has become interested in Second Order Science as a possible contributor to its own future policy research. Professor Midgley intends to maintain contact with his Finnish colleagues to see if and how they implement the thinking coming out of this event.

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