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Evidence for policy in a post-fact world

What is the rightful place of numbers and emotions in policy making? The interaction between science and policy has never been easy, and the people and their representatives are the final arbiter. With beliefs and emotions more volatile and unpredictable in our post-fact world, how do we find the right balance? And how do we deal with a fluid situation, constantly redefined by social media, big data and "alternative statistics" that changes the way we make decisions? The Joint Research Centre (JRC) organises its annual conference "EU4FACTS: Evidence for policy in a post-fact world" on 26 September in Brussels. The event aims to answer these questions and produce recommendations for successful evidence-informed policy making. It will offer a frank debate between leading scientists, policy-makers and communication experts.

The Joint Research Centre, European Commission's science and knowledge service is organising its annual conference on 26 September in Brussels

Prominent political campaigns in 2016 saw statements, with little or no evidence behind them, having a big impact, turning policy-making on its head.

How should scientists, statisticians, decision-makers and the mainstream media react? What is the interplay between facts, values, emotions, and perceptions when taking decisions? Can we really account for confirmation bias, backfire effects, wilful blindness and cognitive dissonance?

The traditional linear model of human decision-making based on a prior consideration of the facts cannot give us the answer but the cutting edge experts and policy practitioners in our conference may do so.

Prof. Sloman from Brown University and author of 'The Knowledge Illusion' will speak about the limits of individual understanding and the human hive that emerges when people work together.  

Prof. Stefan Lewandowski of the University of Bristol will discuss why people often embrace beliefs that are sharply at odds with the scientific evidence. The Chair in Cognitive Psychology and author of the 'Debunking Handbook'  ill focus on ways of reducing the influence of myths.

Francoise Waintrop, Head of Insight and Innovation at France's Prime Minister's office will talk about the use of behavioural economy to better understand citizen actions. She will also bring insights from her management of disruptive projects using design, prototyping, sociology and ethnography to help public policies have better results.

As Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans noted recently, "a new crisis has come along … the crisis of evidence and facts ... we cannot simply answer a demand for a politics of emotions with a strengthened politics of facts".

This crisis is a challenge for the whole of society, not only scientists, experts, the media and policymakers, but also for politicians and concerned citizens.

If you are interested in learning from past success and failures and you want to understand the causes and implications of the post-fact world, register for the JRC Annual Conference.