NEWS15 April 2024

MPs call on government to publish more evidence used in policy decisions

Covid-19 Features Media Public Sector UK

UK – The government should be more proactive in publishing evidence used in decision-making, particularly in relation to policy areas prone to misinformation, according to a report from the culture, media and sport committee.

The report, published on Friday ( 12th April) following an inquiry into the role of the media, government and public institutions in acting as and supporting authoritative and trusted sources of information, says that the pandemic highlighted the importance of being able to access authoritative information.

There should be more ‘proactive’ publication of evidence used in policy-making, especially in policy areas that are frequently subject to misinformation, the report recommends. It says increased transparency for the evidence underpinning policy decisions has the potential to increase the level of trust in government.

Additionally, scientists working in government roles should be allowed to play a more active, public role in communication, according to the report, which recommends that the government allows and encourages its scientists to respond directly to the media to counter misinformation.

The report cites the role played by the chief medical officer and the chief scientific officer in public communications during the pandemic, while also highlighting concerns about the shortcomings of the government’s Covid-19 communications and calling for a full evaluation.  

The government should also review the role of the National Academies (which represent the UK’s science, arts, engineering and medical research communities) in providing public information and should publish their objectives, the report says.

Caroline Dinenage MP, chair of the CMS committee, said: “With the spread of misinformation on social media remaining a very real problem, it’s more important than ever that communities across the country have access to accurate and authoritative information that it is communicated in an open and relatable way.

“There are lessons to be learnt from the pandemic where scientists played a critical role in communications. The government is missing a trick in not giving them a larger public role in the battle to counter misinformation.

“There also needs to be more clarity over the role in public debate of our National Academies. Until the government establishes clear aims, it is hard to judge how effectively they are engaging with the public and whether they are providing value for money in this role.”