Can Open Science close the evidence-policy gap?

Activity: Talk or presentationTalk at conference or symposiumScience to science


In recent years, the use of publicly available scientific outputs by policymakers has been claimed to be one of the benefits of Open Science (e.g. Tennant et al. 2016; Pilat and Fukasaku 2007; Olesk et al. 2019). Additionally, many countries have created advisory bodies and liaison offices to facilitate the knowledge transfer (KT) process. However, there is yet little empirical evidence as to the effectiveness of these measures with regards to the uptake of scientific results by policymakers. The relationship between evidence and policy is thus frequently described as a “gap” (Ellen et al. 2014; Boecher 2016; Choi et al. 2016; Cairney and Oliver 2017), highlighting the difficulties that stand in the way of using scientific evidence in policymaking. In the context of Open Science, the knowledge transfer process is usually modelled as a unidirectional process (Olesk et al. 2019: 2), as the utilization of publicly available knowledge without involving the knowledge producers. This paper draws on evidence from health policy and (to a lesser degree) biotechnology and climate science to argue that
(1) some aspects of the KT process are conducive to a dynamic of cumulative advantage (“Matthew effect”) with respect to the sources of knowledge utilized by policymakers and
(2) there are considerable differences within the group of policymakers with respect to roles and associated information seeking behaviours.
We conclude that the prospects of Open Research Practices (e.g. Open Access to publications, adherence to the FAIR data principles) to remedy the evidence-policy-gap described above must be reconsidered; while Open Research Practices may be conducive to some of the KT mechanisms (e.g. policy papers from public servants who draw on scientific literature), KT often operates on the level of personal (or at least prior) acquaintance (e.g. in the case of policymakers and researchers). Those stakeholders in a position to draw on scientific expertise (civil servants) are rarely able to directly influence policies.
Period4 May 2021
Event title19th STS Conference: Critical Issues in Science, Technology and Society Studies: STS 2021
Event typeConference
LocationGraz, AustriaShow on map