#CienciaenelParlamento or how Twitter can help improve democracy | Science

#CienciaenelParlamento or how Twitter can help improve democracy | Science



"Science in Spain is a losing battle": this is the beginning of another of those Twitter conversations that serve little more than venting. Between justified criticism and logical skepticism, the idea of ​​importing to Spain meetings between scientists and politicians arises. "It is necessary to look for a way for more interaction between politicians and scientists". From Australia, an emigrated scientist explains how scientists and politicians meet there for two days to help each other. They join the conversation emigrated in the United Kingdom citing their experience in exchange programs between science and politics. It sounds like science fiction: in Westminster you can find scientists who for days are the shadow of a deputy to know their activities and problems. Also, the deputy visits the laboratory and lives in the first person the day to day of science. Even going further, in Westminster itself, and in many other parliaments, they have in staff a people with scientific training whose job is to keep abreast of any novelty in the scientific world and transmit it to legislators to be considered in their decision-making. "I do not see the reason why it is not possible to do it in Spain": some laughter, a couple of memes and the logical thing was to wait for the conversation to end as it started, another idea on the air.

This conversation is now one year old: it took place on December 31, 2017. Probably because of the New Year's resolutions, on January 1, 2018 the hashtag was already circulating #CienciaenelParlamento, a Twitter account (@Cienciamento) and a simple Web page with little more than a manifesto asking for annual meetings between scientists and politicians.

Perhaps the key was to put science at the disposal of politics, or that our scientific structures and social agents are already mature enough, or perhaps chance. Be that as it may, the manifesto went viral: in just over a week it had been read and commented on by thousands of people, January 30 we were able to present the initiative to the president of the Congress Ana Pastor and on February 7 we were already presenting the proposal to the Congress table. All the parliamentary groups joined and with that the preparation of the first days #CienciaenelParlamento last November: almost 100 deputies and more than 200 scientists gathered for two days in Congress talking about antibiotics, artificial intelligence, climate change or family reconciliation, among 12 other topics chosen after a public call.

These first days served to show the usefulness of scientific advice. It was possible only thanks to the determined support of the scientific community in an individual and institutional way, the enthusiasm with which the initiative was received by all the parliamentary groups of the Congress, the collaboration of the COTEC Foundation and the FECYT and the voluntary work of some 40 scientists They prepared the topics, contacted hundreds of experts and translated scientific knowledge into useful information for politicians. This pilot experience seems to have paid off: until the magazine Nature the #CienciaenelParlamento movement has echoed and the groups have agreed to provide the parliament with a scientific advice office.

Now comes the really difficult thing: getting us to build a useful tool. It is necessary to implement a flexible, dynamic and agile model that fosters interaction and trust between knowledge and public management.

Among the various models existing in European parliaments, a two-level office is presented as an interesting option. At a first level, a mixed committee, composed of political representatives of all parliamentary groups and active science professionals representing different areas of knowledge, supervises the operation of the office, chooses the topics to prepare and opens doors in the political and scientific world to the office staff.

At a second level, a team of people with scientific training is professionally dedicated to scientific advice, responsible for reviewing the literature, interviewing as many experts as necessary and preparing the reports that present the scientific evidence, making it reach the political class and all the society.

The number of topics to prepare annually depends on the resources invested in the office. After 30 years of operation, the UK office has 14 full-time staff and prepare around 20 subjects annually. The Spanish office will start modestly and should grow based on its effectiveness and usefulness.

Whether or not there are budgets for 2019, the consensus of the parliamentary groups at this point suggests that the office will be a reality. Even if the funds were delayed, the support to #CienciaenelParlamento of dozens of academic institutions makes glimpse that what was born as a letter to the wise men by Twitter will enrich our democratic system.

Andreu Climent He is a researcher at the Cardiology Service of the Gregorio Marañón University General Hospital and attached to the Directorate of the Center for Biomedical Network Research in Cardiovascular Diseases (CIBERCV). Write the present article in representation of the group of scientists that is carrying out #CienciaenelParlamento.

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