Evidence-based policy and the precautionary principle
Friends or foes?
in The freedom of scientific research

Although they are often pitched one against the other, evidence-based policy and precaution are compatible, at least in the field of freedom of scientific research. To support this claim, the authors discuss the European Union and its position on precaution. The chapter argues that there is nothing inherently anti-evidence in the precautionary principle adopted by the European Union. The problem lies in how it is manipulated for reasons of political advocacy. To reconcile precaution and evidence-based policy, the authors argue that it is precautionary to not prohibit any scientific research unless there is empirical evidence that costs and damages outweigh benefits. This guarantees freedom of science, which is also protected by the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. This freedom, however, needs to be balanced by social trust and scientific responsibility. In other words, a new social contract is needed, in which scientists obtain freedom but are accountable to and in active dialogue with society.

The freedom of scientific research

Bridging the gap between science and society


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